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Quote of the Day: Did Ken Ham and Ark Encounter Lie About Projected Attendance Numbers to Get Millions in Tax Breaks?

ken ham

By William Trollinger, Righting America, Dear Williamstown: Sorry for Misleading You About Ark Encounter – My Bad! 

It has been exactly ten years since Williamstown, Kentucky, underwrote $62.5m worth of bonds that made possible the building of Ark Encounter. This anniversary seems the perfect opportunity for Ken Ham to (finally) apologize for the fact that his big unseaworthy boat has not come close to producing the attendance numbers and economic impact that Answers in Genesis (AiG) promised in seeking support from this little town.


Of course, Ken is a busy guy, fighting the atheists and secularists who, as he said on Facebook this past weekend, “are becoming increasingly intolerant of Christianity—in fact, trying to outlaw the Christian worldview in many places.”


Because he is so busy warring against the forces of evil, I wrote the following letter on his behalf. And Ken, there’s no need to thank me. Just sign your name and send it along to the Williamstown powers-that-be and enjoy the good feelings that come with a sincere (albeit ghost-written) confession!

Dear Williamstown City Council: 

Greetings from the gigantic fundamentalist tourist attraction on the other side of I-75! It has been a decade since you so generously underwrote the $62.5 [million] worth of junk bonds that made it possible to build Ark Encounter . . . and you not only underwrote the bonds, but you also agreed that 75% of what Ark Encounter would have paid in property taxes would instead go to paying off the loan. Yes, I know that I go on and on and on about how government is hostile to Christianity in America, but wow, this was a fabulous subsidy. Thank you, Williamstown!!

Of course, I know very well that you said yes to providing us with this wonderful windfall in good part because of what we said in the Ark Encounter feasibility report that we provided you. As I know you will recall, we told you that our attendance numbers would an “estimated average of 1.6 million visitors” in the first year. More than this, we told you that these attendance numbers would simply keep going up. And for July 2022- June 2023, our “scientific” formula projected an attendance of 2,177,737.

Oops!! We have never even made it to one million paid visitors in a year. Here’s a breakdown from this past year (and yes, that busybody Dan Phelps makes it his business to collect and publicize these numbers, instead of allowing us to come up with our own numbers, which I can tell you would look much better!): 

  • July 2022: 110,098
  • August 2022: 83,638
  • September 2022: 68,301
  • October 2022: 74,864
  • November 2022: 39,125
  • December 2022: 37,959
  • January 2023: 14,724
  • February 2023: 23,020
  • March 2023: 66,390
  • April 2023: 70,700
  • May 2023: 82,585
  • June 2023: 111,256
  • TOTAL: 782,660

Yes, yes, yes – I know. This total is only 36% of attendance we told you we would have this year. 

So that’s why I am writing. I am so sorry that we “misled” you so badly. Sure, some of this is on you. You should have conducted a closer analysis of the information we gave you. But I don’t want to play the game of blaming the victim (that is, you!) Instead, I want to own the fact that what we told you in our feasibility report was, well, false. Sorry about that!

Speaking of blaming the victim, I am also sorry for saying that the reason Williamstown has not enjoyed an economic boom is that Williamstown is on the wrong side of the interstate. Of course, your town was on the wrong side of the interstate when we were selling you on underwriting the bonds, which was NOT a point we brought up during our sales pitch. Oh well, that’s capitalism . . . but again, sorry about that!

All this said, I hope you keep in mind that we at AiG are soldiers in the Christian army saving America from the radical Marxists (not exactly sure what this means, but we know that these folks are bad!), from the hordes of LGBTQ militants storming the cultural gates, from the Critical Race Theorists (not exactly sure what this means either, but we know that these folks are bad too!), and from the vaccine-crazy climate cultists. 

That is to say, members of the Williamstown City Council, we are on your side (unless, of course, you belong to any of the aforementioned groups or are liberal)! So we are confident that you will forgive us for misleading you. And in turn, we will pray for you and your local economy.

Your brother in Christ –

Ken Ham

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Republican Attorney General Dave Yost Continues to Hinder Fair Ohio Elections

dave yost
Ant-Democratic Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost

By Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal

One might think that a movement associated with a former state Supreme Court chief justice could draft a petition summary that passes legal muster. But twice already, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has rejected summaries of a petition to put an anti-gerrymandering amendment on Ohio’s November 2024 ballot.

So far, nobody’s explicitly accusing Yost of deliberately slow-walking approval of the anti-gerrymandering amendment, but frustration is growing — and one advocate of redistricting reform pointed out that further delays can become critical quickly.  

“The slower this goes, there are increasingly serious consequences,” said Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, which supports the amendment.

Ohio’s legislative and congressional districts are highly gerrymandered. While Donald Trump carried the state by less than eight percentage points in 2020, Republicans control 68% of seats in the state House, 78% in the state Senate and 66% of the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Ohio voters apparently didn’t want things to be this way. In 2015 and 2018, redistricting amendments to curb extreme partisan gerrymandering in the legislature and Congress both passed with more than 70% of the vote.

But since the 2020 Census, seven sets of maps passed by the Republican-dominated Redistricting Commission have been rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court. By effectively running out the clock, the districts rejected by the court are still in effect.

Former Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, voted with the court’s three Democrats to reject the GOP-drawn maps, until she was forced to retire because of her age in 2022. Now she’s working with the group Citizens Not Politicians to put another constitutional amendment on the ballot.

She says this one will close loopholes by creating a truly independent redistricting commission made of up of citizens that won’t place a partisan thumb on the scales. 

It would ban partisan gerrymanders and create a 15-member commission of Republicans, Democrats and independents to draw the lines. Current and former officeholders, lobbyists and large donors would be banned from sitting on it. 

Despite the claims made by GOP leaders during their August attempt to restrict citizen access to the process, voter-initiated amendments to the Ohio Constitution are anything but easy. 

First activists have to draft a proposed amendment and a summary of it, gather 1,000 signatures from registered voters and submit them to the attorney general. If the Ohio Attorney General approves the petition summary as accurate, then they have to gather more than 400,000 signatures from registered voters — with a percentage coming from each of 44 of the state’s 88 counties. 

And, because many signatures are typically disqualified, proponents try to gather hundreds of thousands more than the minimum. It’s an intensive, costly, time-sensitive process.

So far, Citizens Not Politicians has twice had its petition summaries rejected.

On Aug. 23, Attorney General Yost rejected the first summary, citing nine instances of “omissions and misstatements.” 

For example, the summary said that a bipartisan panel appointing commissioners would hire a professional search firm to “assist” it. But the proposed amendment says that the consulting firm would “solicit applications for commissioner, screen and provide information about applicants, check references, and otherwise facilitate the application review and applicant interview process.”

The summary was, well, too summary, Yost ruled.

“The summary thus diminishes the actual role of the search firm in the application process, by merely stating the search firm would ‘assist’ the panel,” the ruling said.

Then after listing specific shortcomings the attorney general found in the first summary, the letter made a statement that made it seem all but certain that a second attempt would fail as well.

“The above instances are just a few examples of the summary’s omissions and misstatements,” it said.

A spokeswoman for Yost didn’t respond when asked why the attorney general didn’t specify the other problems he found with the petition summary. She also didn’t respond to a question asking whether Yost, who is eyeing a run for governor, believes extreme partisan gerrymandering is a problem in the United States.

Citizens Not Politicians quickly gathered another 1,000 signatures and submitted a new summary. On Sept. 14, Yost rejected that as well, but this time he cited only one deficiency.

The summary didn’t explain that the proposed amendment lays out a specific method of determining the party affiliation of redistricting commission members, while the amendment would leave it to the GOP-controlled Ohio Ballot Board to determine the affiliations of members of the panel that would select those commissioners, Yost wrote.

“To be clear, a fair and truthful summary should articulate this distinction so that a signer can understand the Amendment’s true meaning and effect,” Yost’s letter said. “Otherwise, the summary misleads a signer into misbelieving that party affiliation is judged consistently and with the same objective criteria when it is not.”

Citizens Not Politicians submitted a third version of the summary language last Friday and Yost has until Oct. 2 to accept or reject it. The group was less than pleased with the latest ruling.

“We are disappointed and frustrated that the Attorney General has chosen to reject our petition summary for a second time,” its spokesman, Chris Davey, said in a statement. “We adjusted our summary language as the Attorney General requested on the first submission, and we know our summary language was accurate.”

Advocates of the gerrymandering amendment might seem like they have a long time to get their ducks in a row, but time can grow short quickly and delays can be disastrous for them.

It’s not perfectly analogous, but Yost played a role in another delay — one that helped kill an attempt to repeal the corruptly passed House Bill 6. That’s the bribery scheme in which Akron-based FirstEnergy paid more than $60 million and got a $1.3 billion ratepayer bailout in return. Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, is now serving a 20-year prison term for his role in the scandal, but somehow, HB 6 remains on the books

The law was so objectionable that as soon as it passed in 2019, a strong effort at a voter-initiated repeal was announced. 

Leaders of the attempted repeal had 90 days after the law’s enrollment to gather at least as many valid signatures as 6% of the number who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election — about 265,000 in 2019. But first, they had to submit a summary of the ballot language along with 1,000 valid signatures for review by the attorney general and the Ballot Board.

Yost rejected the first summary that was submitted and by the time a second was approved — along with another batch of 1,000 signatures — the repeal team had only 54 days left of the original 90 to submit more than a quarter-million valid signatures.

With 40% of the clock expired — and with FirstEnergy spending more than $30 million on a brutal, dishonest campaign to thwart the repeal — time ran out before circulators could gather enough signatures to get it on the ballot.

The timetable for the anti-gerrymandering isn’t nearly that compressed, but each passing week is crucial, Turcer, of Common Cause Ohio, said. 

“It could be that this is standard operating procedure,” she said of the two rejections so far. “But it could slow things down so much that they can’t collect signatures during early voting and Election Day.”

She was referring to Nov. 7, when a closely watched abortion rights amendment is expected to draw many Ohioians to the polls. In-person early voting starts Oct. 11 — just 22 days away.

Turcer explained that early voting and Election Day are important for petition circulators because that’s when registered voters — the group eligible to sign petitions — are gathered at county boards of election during early voting and at polling places on Election Day. 

Assuming Yost approves the summary language on Oct. 2, it still has to be approved by the Ballot Board and petition forms need to be printed.

“Citizen initiatives are incredibly challenging,” Turcer said. “But they’re much harder if you have a compressed time period.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Ohio Republicans Marginalize and Demonize Transgender People

gay pride flag

By Marilou Johanek, Ohio Capital Journal, Used by Permission

The right to exist is being erased for transgender kids and adults. You know it. There is always another bill or law being passed in dozens of Republican-controlled state legislatures, including Ohio’s, targeting the transgender community. It’s a vulnerable community. No match for the aggressive national campaign launched against it by the GOP and an unholy army of fanatical Christian haters. 

Trans-Americans are being nullified as people ahead of 2024 to stick it to the “woke left” and ensure right-wing evangelicals vote Republican. A political wedge used to win elections by pulverizing a population of nonconformists into nothingness. Calculated cruelty to destroy lives for power.   

Transgender adolescents are most at-risk of being rubbed out by the unsparing hostility of anti-trans rhetoric and lawmaking. They’ve been made to feel like a freak show, aberrations to be pushed into the shadows, and potentially suicide just to score cheap political points. It is so wrong and so unchristian.

But the Republican abuse heaped on trans youth, already stigmatized and mistreated, is unrelenting. Right-wingers have unleashed a torrent of unjustified bills to purge the trans community from public life. It is hateful, hollow legislating to curb the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of LGBTQ+ people. 

When the messaging by high-profile Republicans day in and day out is that those people are ungodly deviants destroying all that’s right and wholesome, hate crimes follow. Violence answers the toxic attacks against a group portrayed as perverts. Their freedom to live the way they choose must be stopped.

Last week, Ohio House Republicans passed a slate of bans and restrictions on trans sports, medical care, and speech. The legislation doesn’t solve any pressing problem in Ohio or respond to any pressing constituent ultimatum for change. 

Mainstream Ohio is consumed with real problems like the economy, affordable housing, and day care, not with banning trans girls from female sports or blocking parents from providing medical care for their trans kid. There is no public outcry for pre-clearance of LGBTQ topics in school classrooms or for teachers to out their students. 

That’s mean and muzzling. Who would go out of their way to harm transgender youngsters who are just trying to survive? Not a majority of Americans. But a vocal minority of far-right politicians and religious zealots is on crusade to crush young lives without mercy.   

Theirs is a politically expedient partnership, deceptively cloaked in concern for children, girls sports, and parental rights. It is an ugly charade with real-life consequences. A record number of statehouse bills nationwide have been submitted this year (560 and counting).

They are uniformly steeped in misinformation and disinformation to scare people who don’t know any trans or queer people. It’s a coordinated enterprise to scapegoat a group of human beings into oblivion with a thousand legislative cuts.

The Christian right movement is on a heartless mission, aided and abetted by state and federal Republicans, to cancel trans people entirely: Laws must be enacted to erase the transgender footprint until it is gone. Ruthless edicts must purify a morally homogeneous culture of undesirables.

We are on a dark road. History has gone there before. In Nazi Germany groups of people deemed incompatible with regime purists disappeared. Isolated. Demonized. Gone. For the good of the master race. 

A speaker at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference told the crowd, “For the good of society…transgenderism must be eradicated.” An open call for the annihilation of human beings who happen to be trans. People applauded. It wasn’t them being torn down. 

That’s how it starts. The moral connectedness that holds humanity together breaks apart. Suddenly some people are not deserving of care and compassion. Like those instinctively disliked or dismissed as different. Anyone in another tribe. The marginalized. Not your concern.

They can be bludgeoned by unjust laws or dehumanizing oppression. Persecuted for existing. As a transgender child. As a Jew. “We preferred to keep silent,” wrote an anguished German pastor in 1946. “All of that was not our affair” — the persecutions of fellow Germans, the purges of neighbors and friends, the camps, the deaths. In his powerful postwar confession of unforgivable passivity and indifference, Martin Niemoller spoke for the ages.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I am not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

Then they came for trans youth. With Ohio House Bills 68 [introduced by infamous IFB pastor and transphobe Gary Click] and HB 8 [Gary Click is a cosponsor of this bill]. One bans trans athletes and trans medical care for minors. The other is a political dog whistle (modeled after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill) with vague curriculum censorship and mandates for outing students to their parents who question their gender identity. 

The anti-trans narrative is the Ohio Senate now. The cost of not speaking out is life itself. 

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Jesus Makes a Personal Appearance at Local Evangelical Church

olive branch ministries

Two miles down the road from our home lies Olive Branch Ministries, pastored by Keith Adkins. One of a plethora of dying Christian churches around us, Olive Branch rebranded itself from Olive Branch [Pentecostal] Church of God, thinking that a fancy new name will magically rejuvenate the congregation and draw new blood to the church. This is a common practice these days by Evangelical churches, thinking if they paint their dying carcass with a patina of bright, shiny colors, Dr. Frankenstein will exclaim, He’s Alive! Granted, many sects are perceived in less than flattering light these days, so I understand why churches might want to trick the public into thinking that what goes on within the four walls of their sanctuaries is new and improved, just what the public is looking for. Southern Baptist congregations are notorious for their rebrands — dropping all public affiliation with the SBC. People uninitiated in the wily practices of area missionaries and church planters might think that a new non-denominational church has come to town, only to find out that the only thing that changed is the name.

I know very little about Olive Branch outside of driving by their building on Sundays and counting the cars in the parking lot. The church had a recent pastor change. Ned Speiser, a local realtor, was the pastor for years before Keith Adkins assumed the pulpit. I do know that Olive Branch is one of the older congregations in Defiance County. I couldn’t find any public information about the church or its pastor. The church has no social media presence. I find it inexplicable for a church in 2023 to not have a quality, informative website and social media presence. (I built my first church website with Microsoft FrontPage in the late 1990s.)

Christianity, by and large, is slowly dying in rural northwest Ohio, with younger adults saying “no thanks,” and boomers and their parents hanging on for dear life, hoping that Jesus is coming soon to rescue them from the horde of unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines amassed at their metaphorical gates. Of course, the Philistines aren’t at their gates. They simply don’t care and have better things to do on Sundays than listen to boring sermons and sing catchy, shallow praise and worship songs. I suspect that by 2050, a lot of local churches will either close their doors or merge with other congregations. When the money dies — think old people — it’s game over.

It is human nature to want to live at all costs. This is just as true for people as it is for businesses and churches. No church wants to close its door, admitting that it failed. So congregations look for ways to regain their glory years; a time when pews were filled with young and old, souls were saved, and offering plates were overflowing. Pastors and other church leaders go to conferences to learn new ways to transform their congregations. One popular method is for churches to change their music. Churches known for hymn singing scrap the old way and start singing praise and worship songs, led by a worship leader/praise team and band (or at least a grandfather with a guitar). Result? Awful music that disconnects parishoners from worship.

Country churches running under one hundred in attendance think they can mimic what they see happening in megachurches; large congregations led by paid professional singers and musicians, using equipment that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. What megachurch wannabees fail to see is this: megachurch services are more about entertainment than worship. Small church pastors think that if they preach entertaining sermons like big-name megachurch preachers, people will flock to their churches. Lost on these pastors is that preaching is an art and that it is unwise to mimic other preachers. We attended a church years ago where the pastor was preaching Rick Warren’s sermons word for word. It took me a couple of weeks to catch on to what this mimic was doing, but once I figured out he was stealing Warren’s sermons, we stopped attending. The church closed its doors several years later.

Churches are free to do whatever they want. However, if their goal is growth, they might want to consider how they are viewed by non-attendees. They might want to survey attendees and ask them what they liked and didn’t like about the service they attended. I have thought about becoming a church consultant; someone who would turn a critical eye to their congregations, looking at every facet of their business — from the parking lot to the bathrooms. (I have also thought about being a restaurant consultant.)

Take Olive Branch. Recently, they planted the following sign in their yard. As you shall see, the sign is way too small to be seen by people speeding down the highway at fifty-five miles per hour. I had Polly turn around so I could actually read what the sign said and take a photograph.

come meet jesus

I suspect the church and its pastor believe that “where two or three are gathered [at 11:00 am on Sundays and 6:30 pm on Wednesdays] together in my [Jesus] name, I am in their midst.” I wonder if the church has ever asked themselves how they know they do anything in Jesus’ name, and how would they know that Jesus is in their midst? Hundreds of churches in the four-county area believe the same thing. Imagine being Jesus’ scheduler. Millions of Christian churches across the globe, yet he allegedly is sitting in the front pew of every one of them. Of course, Jesus doesn’t appear physically at these churches. Instead, he’s there in Spirit. How any church can KNOW Jesus is there in Spirit is never stated. I suspect that generation after generation after generation of church members say “Jesus is in our midst,” that everyone assumes this claim is true.

Pastor Adkins and his congregation believe that non-Christian or wrong-Christian passersby are in bondage to sin; lacking the freedom that only their peculiar version of Jesus can give. How do they know this? Bible verses will be quoted and personal testimonies uttered, but those in bondage to sin will just have to take their word for it. As someone who is a sin-loving heathen, I laugh when Evangelicals tell me I am in “bondage.” I reject their presuppositions out of hand, including the anti-human notion that every person who has ever lived on planet Earth was born a depraved sinner, headed for eternal damnation and Hell unless they repent of their sins and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

I left Christianity in 2008. I found that religion was bondage, not life; that I spent fifty years in servitude in Egypt, and once I escaped, I found the Promised Land — a land that flows with reason, common sense, and skepticism.

I wish that Jesus was making public appearances at Olive Branch Ministries at 11:00 am on Sundays. I have a lot of questions I would like to ask him. Alas, I know Jesus will not be appearing at any church this Sunday. He can’t. Jesus was buried two thousand years ago in an unknown Judean grave; all that remains is an idea, one that became hopelessly corrupted by organized religion. If Jesus does make a personal appearance at Olive Branch this Sunday, I suspect he would be a first-time visitor.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Ohio Republicans Continue to Viciously Assault LGBTQ People

christians attack lgbt people

By David DeWitt, Ohio Capital Journal Editor-in-Chief and Columnist

Happy Pride Month, Ohio, where LGBTQ+ people are under constant assault by bully Republican lawmakers who are weirdly obsessed with our community, especially the transgender members of it.

Transgender people — especially transgender people of color — have been leading the activist charge toward LGBTQ+ human rights and equality since the beginning, literally throwing the first punches at the Stonewall riots.

They are the icons of our human rights movement that every LGBTQ+ person ought to know: Sylvia Rivera. Marsha P. Johnson. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. Stormé DeLarverie.

And since the beginning, transgender people have been the most victimized. They remain so, and Ohio Republicans have devised numerous abhorrent ways to target and victimize them further.

Extremist right-wing lawmakers have introduced bills to ban transgender kids from participating in athletics that align with their gender identity, to ban gender-affirming health care for trans youth, and to ban trans youth in schools and colleges from using bathrooms that align with their gender identities.

Probably what I find most obnoxious about all of this is that these are politicians who have virtually no experience with the LGBTQ+ community, who have expressed no interest in understanding LGBTQ+ people, who have no comprehension of the day-to-day lived experience of LGBTQ+ Americans, who have no expertise whatsoever in the broad scientific, mental health, and medical consensus on care when it comes to LGBTQ+ lives, and who show absolutely no interest in doing anything to help LGBTQ+ people legally, medically, or politically.

Yet they claim to somehow be the ones who “care” and are out to “save” LGBTQ+ people, by committing rampant harm and torment on our families in every way they can imagine.

It’s a very creepy and disturbing fixation they’ve revealed within themselves. The legislative sponsor of various attacks on transgender people, Vickery Republican state Rep. Gary Click, is a pastor who inexplicably and absurdly claims he has no religious motive, despite Click defending conversion therapy and suggesting that homosexuality and the idea that one can be trans are pushed by Satan in order to undermine the family.

Click even made an appearance celebrating his anti-trans attack with Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, a right-wing religious fanatic organization that is labeled as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Parents of LGBTQ+ youth, medical professionals who provide LGBTQ+ health care, and advocates who have dedicated their lives to saving LGBTQ+ lives, all stand opposed to these bills.

Only six transgender girls play sports in Ohio, out of 1.5 million public school K-12 students. Both the Ohio High School Athletic Association and NCAA have rules around transgender participation that are well-established and based on a wide variety of expert advice and research.

Gender-affirming care is supported by every major medical organization in the United States. A study released last year found that gender-affirming care for youth was linked to 60% lower odds of moderate or severe depression and 73% lower odds of suicidality.

There is no evidence that letting transgender people use public facilities that align with their gender identity increases safety risks, but there is ample evidence that forcing transgender people to use bathrooms that do not align with their gender identity increases risk of assault against transgender people.

The Trevor Project found in a 2021 poll that anti-trans legislation led to 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth reporting negative impacts on their mental health.

Nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary young people attempted suicide in the past year, according to the Trevor Project’s 2023 survey of mental health of LGBTQ+ youth.

A 2022 survey from The Trevor Project found that 45% of LGBTQ+ youth across the country seriously considered suicide that year, while 14% actually attempted it.

In 2021, the Human Rights Campaign tracked a record number of violent fatal incidents against transgender and gender non-conforming people. These are people’s children and family members and friends whose last moments alive were suffered under the wicked violence of hate.

LGBTQ+ safe spaces and celebrations have been targeted with threats or acts of violence, including masked Nazis showing up with semi-automatic rifles to a drag show at Land Grant in Columbus in April.

Nazis have a history of victimizing transgender and gender non-conforming people first.

The world’s first trans clinic, the Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin, was one of the first victims of German Nazi targeting in 1933, when it’s clinic was shut down, administrators and doctors were forced to flee the country, and 20,000 books — including every bit of then-established transgender science and research — were set aflame in a public bonfire.

In America today, a new staggering rise in violence against LGBTQ+ people directly mirrors the recent rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and lawmaking among right-wing politicians, pundits, and loser internet trolls.

As of April of this year, at least 417 anti-LGBTQ+ bills had been introduced in state legislatures across the United States since January, a new record surpassing last year’s record.

Why are they doing all of this?

Radical reactionary politics. Heartless politicians seeking to roll back and destroy human and civil rights for their own political gain. To drive a wedge. To take advantage of a political moment to victimize others.

Theirs is a campaign of fear, hate, and intimidation, meant to dismantle 50 years of progress, meant to “other” us, as though we weren’t people’s daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, and cherished friends, wholly deserving of dignity, tolerance, and our fully protected human and civil rights.

As the larger community has gained widespread acceptance, many Americans will still tolerate victimization of our transgender sisters and brothers, even though a majority favors protecting trans people from discrimination. Even within our community, a disturbing level of transphobia sometimes exists among cisgender gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals.

And that probably breaks my heart the most. I expect nothing from small-minded, hateful bigots and cretins who live their lives in fear and intolerance, but I do expect the LGBTQ+ community and our allies to stand together in strength, love, and acceptance against them, especially at such a critical moment. This is a perfect month for us all to recommit ourselves to that.

This past Sunday, I attended a drag brunch in Columbus hosted by the always hilarious and inimitable Virginia West. We had a small crowd for the holiday weekend, but it included members of our community of all types, cheering, clapping, singing, and laughing so, so much.

We had straight people, gay people, lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, asexuals, and one beautiful family celebrating a mother’s birthday who raised two transgender children to be fun, confident, happy adults. Their straight, cisgender father was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Drag is Not a Crime.”

Sitting only a couple tables away, a wide smile spread across my cheeks as I observed this delightful family living in love and laughter and acceptance and joy with each other.

That is what this is all about, I thought. That is what our community is all about. That is what life — and living life well — is all about: Honor, decency, honesty, compassion, laughter, joy, acceptance, and living with love, tolerance, and understanding in our hearts. That is the LGBTQ+ community — and all communities — at our best.

How dare these voices of hate and intolerance assault that? These fringe zealots who want to dictate their dogma on everyone are not only un-American, they’re wildly ignorant of the fact that so many families of all types live in beautiful harmony. But the intolerant want only one way: their way. It’s a mean, narrow, base conceit.

These lawmakers who live with such contempt, such loathing, such a lack of empathy, and such bottomless cruelty for anyone who doesn’t live as they say everyone must live, are defiling both themselves and their positions of public trust. They are the shame of Ohio, deserving of nothing but mocking disdain.

As ever, America, we have a constant choice: Between tolerance or intolerance, courage or fear, kindness or cruelty, love or hate. It’s an easy choice.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Ignoring Any History Before White People

iroquois people

This post could also be titled, The Myths We Tell Our Children. Several years ago, I attended a sporting event for one of my granddaughters. As I was sitting there, a grandmother was explaining to her young grandson the history of The Great Black Swamp, and in particular, Stryker, Ohio. Grandma breathlessly explained how the French “settled” the Stryker area. In her mind, local history began and ended with white people. Sadly, this view of history is all too common, especially in white monocultures such as rural northwest Ohio.

As Grandma regaled her grandson with stories of early French settlers, I snickered, thinking,  Native Americans sure would find this history interesting. You see, long before white Europeans arrived on the scene, IroquoisWyandotHopewell, and Ottawa people roamed the forests, swamps, and waterways of northwest Ohio. While it is certainly true that the French established and platted the town of Stryker, that doesn’t mean that they were the first people to walk/inhabit the land. They weren’t. Sitting along the banks of the Tiffin River, Stryker developed into a prominent railroad town in the early years of the twentieth century. It is not a stretch of the imagination, however, to say that it is likely Native Americans paddled the waters of the Tiffin and camped near Stryker long before European interlopers claimed the land for their own.

Grandma’s history lesson should have, at the very least, included a mention of the people groups who lived in rural northwest Ohio for centuries before the establishment of any of the communities local citizens now call home. Granted, Native Americans tended to be nomadic and didn’t leave permanent marks on the land, but that doesn’t mean they never traversed the land and waterways. They did, and children need to told this lest they develop uninformed, errant views of their “place” in our history.

My wife, Polly, and I love to take day trips, driving the back roads and off-the-beaten paths of rural northwest Ohio, northeast Indiana, and southern Michigan. As we drive along rivers and creeks, I try to envision how the land might have looked before white Europeans drained the swamps and cleared the land. This part of the United States was covered with vast forests, and home to a plethora of wildlife. It doesn’t take much imagination — at least for me — to have visions of Native Americans walking forested paths or river pathways as they hunted or moved from community to community.

In 1917, Nevin Winter wrote a book titled: The History of Northwest Ohio: A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress and Development from the First European Exploration of the Maumee and Sandusky Valleys and Adjacent Shores of Lake Erie, down to the Present Time. This title aptly describes how most denizens of northwest Ohio view their history. Unfortunately, it is a narrative that tells the truth as far as it goes but leaves out crucial stories and details that paint a fuller picture of whom it was who first called these lands home.

The progressive path towards inclusiveness begins with a proper understanding of American and world history. As long as American children are taught a white, Eurocentric view of the world, we can expect racism and bigotry to continue — particularly here in the hinterland. Children become adults, and pass on these half-truths to their children, perpetuating the lie that the Americas were uninhabited lands ripe for the picking; that native people really didn’t want the land.

My editor mentioned a good book on this subject, Howard Zinn’s seminal work, A People’s History of the United States.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Short Stories: Death by Duck: The Photograph that Almost Killed Me

Several years ago, Polly and I took a short road trip south of our home in Ney, Ohio that landed us in Delphos — a former stop along the Miami and Erie Canal. Like many of our day trips, we had no planned destination. We just head north, south, east, or west and see where it takes us. Our children have plenty of stories they could tell about Dad’s famous road trips. When the children were young, we rarely had much money, so piling into the car and going somewhere, anywhere, was a cheap form of entertainment. While we now have the money to take “real” trips, we still like unplanned trips that take us to places we’ve never been.

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In the back of the Delphos Herald building, there is a canal and lock dating back to the days of the aforementioned canal. Getting to the canal was a challenge for me, but I carefully made my way down to the water, snapping photographs as I waddled. Once I had my photo fix, it was time for me to head back to the car. I thought, I should go back the way I came. Instead, Polly came near the concrete abutment and I thought, with her help, I could hop up. Yeah . . . the hop turned into a nasty fall, a fall that left me with a nasty, ugly gash on my leg and numerous other contusions. Polly landed on her knees and was quite sore for several days. A week or so later, the gash became infected. Since I am diabetic, any wound like this can be deadly. Fortunately, the doctor prescribed me an antibiotic and it killed off the infection.

My decision to hop up instead of walk back was foolish. Had I fallen backward instead of forward, I would have tumbled down the abutment into the canal. I have no doubt that the fall likely would have killed me. This was a reminder to me that I am not physically fit and I am not twenty-five anymore. As I am writing this, a humorous thought comes to my mind. “Polly, how did your husband die?” “He was killed by a duck.”

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Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Short Stories: I Killed the Kittens With a Hammer, Says a Local Evangelical Farmer

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Barn cats at my Son and Daughter-in-law’s Farm

As Polly and I wrapped up our twenty-five-year tour of duty pastoring churches, we began looking for a new church home. I had pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio from 1997 to 2002, and after leaving the church, we attended — for a short time — an Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA) church in Butler, Indiana. The congregation itself was not much to write home about, but we dearly loved the pastor, Jim Glasscock, and his family. After attending for a few months, we decided that we would join the church, only to find out that we couldn’t do so because we weren’t Dispensational and Premillennial. That’s right, we couldn’t join because of our amillennial, posttribulational, non-dispensational eschatology. Such is the fracturing nature of Christian Fundamentalism. We soon left, looking for friendlier confines. The pastor and his wife — by now friends — were, as we were, disappointed. We felt, at the time, that we couldn’t in good conscience attend a church that wouldn’t accept us as members. The church later closed its doors and the pastor and his family moved on to a new ministry.

While I could tell many stories about our time at this church (good, bad, and funny), one stands out above all others. One Sunday morning we were sitting around a table in the fellowship hall swapping stories. Somehow, the subject of cats came up. Now, I am a cat lover. We have always had at least one cat, and have had as many as three. Currently, we have a fat, lazy yellow sixteen-year-old cat named Joe Meower and a year-and-a-half-old stray we took in named Socks. We regularly feed the neighborhood’s feral cats, hopefully providing them a bit of respite from the cruelty inflicted upon them by thoughtless humans.

As we talked about cats, an aged farmer decided to share a story about his barn cats. One of his cats had recently given birth to a litter of kittens. I thought, how nice, this man is going to take care of these feral cats and their offspring. I quickly learned, however, this man was anything but nice. Not that he was peculiar. Lots of Jesus-loving, God-fearing locals are quite cruel to animals. Some of the most cruel people I know are local Amish farmers. I asked the man how the kittens were doing. Oh, he chuckled, I killed them. I got a hammer out and smacked each one of them in the head! I quickly felt my face becoming flush as rage filled my mind. I thought, you could have given the kittens away, or better yet, you could have had your female barn cats spayed. Instead, your cruel hands picked up a hammer and beat them to death.

I quickly exited the fellowship hall, fearing that I was going to have a “Bruce moment.” My rage passed, but I have not forgotten that people who speak of the love of God can often be cruel and violent; that God commanding them to have dominion over the earth means that they can indiscriminately kill. In an anthropocentric world, man rules the roost. All other life only has the value given to it by its overlords. This is why this farmer could, as if he was telling a story about his grandchildren, share his murderous rampage with his fellow church members.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Should a Monument to Anthony Wayne be Erected in Defiance, Ohio?

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News.

Dear Editor,

Plans are afoot to erect a monument to Anthony Wayne on the original site of Fort Defiance adjacent to the Defiance Public Library or on a donated lot across the street. It seems that almost everyone is in agreement that this monument should be erected — a 6-foot testimony to the greatness of Mad Anthony. Defiance mayor Mike McCann assured locals that his team, along with people associated with the Andrew L. Tuttle Museum, will ensure that the plaque on the monument is historically correct, right down to its punctuation. Of course, the text of the plaque has not been made public.

I wonder if the plaque will mention that Wayne was a slave owner; that he used a scorched earth policy to starve local indigenous people; that he burned their villages; that he was known for, to quote the Philadelphia Aurora, “the uncommon slaughter of Native Americans.” Wayne took by force land that belonged to indigenous people. He did so through violence, cruelty, and horrific bloodshed. Further, at the Treaty of Greenville, Wayne promised indigenous locals that the land of “Indiana” and lands to the west of Ohio would be theirs forever. He lied. Will any of these historical facts be on the plaque?

Further, if people want to erect a monument to commemorate eighteenth-century Defiance history, why not erect a monument memorializing the great indigenous people groups that once walked the shores of the Maumee (Hotaawathiipi), Auglaize (Kathinakithiipi), Tiffin, and St. Joseph (Kociihsasiipi) rivers — something more significant than a memorial about a big apple tree or the name of a park. This project has been talked about on and off in recent years, but seems to be on hold.

Our local history is steeped in the blood of indigenous people. Wayne, under the authority of the U.S. government, was a usurper; a man who believed in manifest destiny. In his mind, indigenous people stood in the way of White Americans achieving their God-given destiny. If they would not willingly give up their houses and lands, he would use violence to take them. Is Anthony Wayne really the kind of man we want to memorialize in 2023?

I hope Mayor McCann and city leaders will refocus their attention on building a monument that memorializes the lives of Native Americans who once lived here, and not a man known for ethnic cleansing and the destruction of indigenous people.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Dear Salesman, Don’t Assume Every Prospective Customer is a Christian

pay attention

Dear Salesman,

You came into our home today to sell us your company’s product. We received a flyer from your company last week, touting its new, low-priced rental program for your equipment. We’ve been wanting to buy or rent your product for some time, so the new rental program was all the motivation necessary for us to call your company and schedule a sales call. What follows in this letter is a mixture of advice and critique. I hope you will learn from what I have written.

You arrived promptly for the sales call — and that’s a good thing. Tardiness — especially without notification — is a sure way to get us to reject out of hand what you are selling. If my wife and I, who are just as busy as you are, set time aside for your sales pitch, we expect you to arrive on time. And if you can’t, we expect a telephone call or text message. Last week, I offered for sale two Amazon Fire TV Sticks on a local buy-and-sell forum. The first person to say he wanted them asked if I could wait until Friday for him to pick them up. I said, sure. Friday came and went without the man picking up the Sticks. So, I offered them to the next person who wanted them. She promptly came and picked up the Sticks. The next day, the man who stood us up sent me a Facebook message, asking if he could come and pick up the Sticks. I told him no; that I had offered them to someone else. The man became upset with me, suggesting that I was a terrible person. I took a few moments to educate him on the value of timeliness and keeping your commitments. All that did was aggravate him further. The man told me that he would never do business with me again. Little did he know that I don’t give people who don’t keep appointments a second chance; even those who use the lame excuse that their grandmother was in the hospital and no one had a cell phone. He and his siblings were Millennials, so there was no chance in hell that one of them didn’t have a cell phone. So as a salesman, you get one point for being on time. Unfortunately, as this letter will detail, our interaction with you cost you quite a few other points.

You parked on the street in front of our home, directly in front of the two-foot by six-foot sign for my business, Defiance County Photo. It’s hard to miss, with its blue frame, but somehow you missed it. That’s why you were surprised when you found out I was photographer, and that I, in particular, did local high school sports photography (you proceeded to then spend way too much time telling me of your own photo prowess, complete with dick pics — also known as your “awesome” sports photos). Years ago, I tried my hand at sales. My dad was a salesman for several decades. He was as smooth as silk when it came to selling people things they didn’t need; things such as Kirby vacuüm cleaners and Combined Insurance Company supplemental medical policies. Unfortunately, I was not like my dad, and I failed miserably at selling stuff. I even tried my hand at selling the product you tried to sell us today.

One lesson I did learn from my foray into sales is that it is very important to pay attention to your prospective customers’ homes. How do they live? What’s hanging on their walls? Years later, I would use this technique in my selling of Jesus to sinners. As someone who’s been in sales for years should know, it is important to make a connection with customers. The easiest way to do that is to talk about them, and not yourself. Unfortunately, you didn’t pay attention to your surroundings as you walked into our home, and as a result you made assumptions about us that were invalid. You are much like the Amway salesman that came to our home years ago thinking that by mentioning his Cadillac sitting in our driveway and showing us his Rolex watch and diamond ring, we would be so impressed that we would immediately want to become salesman for Con-way. Nothing in our home — a mobile home — told this man that we were people who placed a premium on material wealth. He missed all the cues that our home, dress, and demeanor told him. You did the same, by not paying attention to us, and by spending way too much time talking about yourself; building yourself into a larger-than-life master of industry. One thing I have learned over my sixty-six years of life is to spot a bull-shitter from a mile away. Soon as you started regaling us with your exploits, I knew we were talking to a first-class, Grade-A biped manure spreader.

Had you been paying attention, you never would have repeatedly referenced the Evangelical God in your conversation with us. You wouldn’t have told us that God has a plan for everyone’s life or that the Christian God is in control of everything. You also wouldn’t have mentioned how my wife’s employer — for whom she has worked twenty-seven years — has gone downhill since its Evangelical founder died; that the third generation now running the company is only concerned with profits and the bottom line. What was it about how we lived, dressed, or carried ourselves that said to you we are Christians? There’s nothing in our home that even remotely suggests that we are Christian; no Jesus Junk®, no Bibles lying around, no Evangelical books in our bookcase; nothing that suggests that we are Jesus-loving, church-going Christians. I suspect you wrongly assume that everyone in rural northwest Ohio believes in the Christian God, so you thought it safe to use God to warm us up and entice us to say yes. Little did you know we are atheists. I wonder how uncomfortable that fact might have made you feel had you known.

My wife and I are kind and generous to a fault. We said nothing as you blabbered on about your omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent mythical deity. After you left, my wife even complimented me — with a chuckle in her voice — for using the word darn instead of damn in one of my responses to you. You see, I pay attention to my surroundings. I don’t go out of my way to offend Christians. When my wife’s Evangelical parents come to our home to visit, we temper our language, change the TV channel to Hallmark, and play G-rated music. We don’t want to unnecessarily offend them; even though they find plenty to be offended over by our stocked liquor cabinet, their daughter’s worldly apparel, the atheist books on my bookshelves, our children’s lack of faith, and our lack of church attendance and prayer before meals (though we do allow Polly’s dad to say a prayer before meals). You might learn something from our behavior: that unless you know a prospective customer is a member of the Jesus Club®, perhaps it’s better to not assume. You came to our home to sell us your company’s product, not to sell Jesus. Had we known that Jesus was going to be part of the sales presentation, we certainly would not have invited you into our home.

There is much more that I could say about your interaction with us; stuff that should have resulted in us saying no thanks. But, thanks to me researching your company and its product, and thoroughly educating myself about what it does, we decided to buy your product anyway. While we were turned off by your sales presentation, including the part that treated us like aged imbeciles, we had decided beforehand that if the price in your company’s flyer was indeed correct, we were going to rent your product. So then, it was your lucky day, Mister Jesus Freak, that you ran into customers who could ignore your religious drivel, and instead base their decision on whether your product would meet their needs.

Next time you go into someone’s home to sell them your product, pay attention. Your next prospective customer might not be as thoughtful and deferring as we are. Perhaps it would just be better if you left religion out of your sales pitch altogether. There’s something dirty and shallow about trying to hook prospects with Jesus talk. While I suspect my wife and I are in the minority when it comes to not wanting to hear salesmen talk about their love life with Jesus, an increasing number of local residents are choosing to label themselves as NONES — people who are atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards religion. These prospective customers want to hear about your product, not your God. Keep that in mind the next time you start telling a customer about the God who controls everything. You might find out that the only God who controls something is the customer who has the power to say yes or no to your sales pitch; and for customers who aren’t religious, they are more likely to say no to someone who uses religion in an attempt to reel them in.


Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser