Religious Attacks on GLBT Equality Escalating?
"Trasancos is a Baptist convert to Catholicism, and it’s ironic that she’s so judgmental, considering her own colorful background," continued Williamson. "Now a married, 42-year-old stay-at-home mom, she wrote on the website Catholic Online that she got pregnant in college. Her seven children are from three different men. She’s been divorced and has had an abortion. She’s taken drugs and worked as a stripper. She writes a column for the Catholic Free Press."
Anti-gay speech in the name of religious liberty has also been used by Christian students to make declarations condemning GLBT peers. NBC News reported on Sept. 22 on a high school student in Texas who declared that Christianity does not admit gays.
Dakota Ary said during a Sept. 20 classroom discussion that he "a Christian, and ... to be homosexual is wrong." The comment resulted in a write-up and the student being sent to the principal’s office.
Christian legal group Liberty Counsel quickly became involved. The student and his mother are represented by Liberty Counsel lawyer Matt Krause, who told the media, "Just because you walk in the school house doors doesn’t mean you shed your First Amendment rights," Krause declared. "He wasn’t disrupting class, he wasn’t threatening anybody [or] harassing anybody, he was just stating his personal belief in a benign, non-hostile way."
The teacher disagreed, and suggested in the write-up that the expression of such sentiments in class could be construed as bullying.
Dakota said that was not at all his intention. "I didn’t say it to be rude to anyone. I said it like how I believe about it," he told the media.
But even among Christians there is no consensus that religious liberty somehow entails denying the same legal right and moral status to others as is granted to heterosexuals. Some people of faith reject that argument; indeed, some people of faith are gay and lesbian themselves.
GLBT advocate Wayne Besen wrote in a Sept. 22 Huffington Post op-ed that "mainstream Christians" should vocally and flatly oppose attempts from anti-gay religious conservatives to use faith as a weapon against the GLBT community.
Besen recounted a Pride parade in Charlotte, North Carolina, that was recently crashed by religious protesters wearing red shirts and carrying religiously themed signs. A fundamentalist preacher led the coterie of anti-gay demonstrators.
Besen wondered where the pro-GLBT Christians might have been.
"The hatred and religious bigotry was appalling, but not surprising," he wrote. "What truly bothers me, however, was the lack of mainstream Christians standing up and speaking out against such fanatical behavior. Virtually every time I write about the Religious Right I’m reminded by the faithful that ’not all Christians are like that.’ "
Besen readily admitted the point--only to return to his question. It’s one thing for Christians to embrace gays in principle, he suggested, but quite another to allow the anti-gay stripe of Christianity to dominate the discussion virtually unopposed.
"Still, the number of mainstream Christians fighting the hate campaigns of the Religious Right is disappointing," Besen wrote. "With thousands of churches, millions of members and a vested interest in fighting back against religious extremism, they have consistently underachieved and failed to reach their potential.
"What would it look like if mainstream churches fought back against the Religious Right?"
Besen suggested a scenario in which red-shirted believers who cling to faith-based bias were surrounded by a much larger contingent of blue-shirted (and heterosexual) Christians with placards of their own advising Christian precepts such as love and acceptance.
"These despicable bullies would likely have no idea how to react in such a situation where Christians were calling them ’unchristian,’ " Besen wrote. "Instead of the expected rush of self-righteous glory, I could see these folks slinking off, dazed and ashamed."
But Besen also wrote that in his experience, this situation was merely a "pipe dream."
"Time and again, I’m disillusioned by the lack of support from liberal and mainstream Christian organizations," Besen wrote. "It seems they are either afraid to offend their most conservative members or they are mired in passivity that allows extremists to define their faith."
Besen noted that Republican frontrunner for the GOP nomination in next year’s presidential campaign, Rick Perry, organized a prayer day in a sports stadium just prior to entering the race. Perry, like fellow front-runners Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann, says that he would support an amendment to the United States Constitution to limit the rights of gay and lesbian families, overriding laws in six states that give same-sex couples state-level marriage parity.
Bachmann and Romney both signed onto a National Organization of Marriage campaign pledge in which they promised to push for the anti-gay amendment, work to reinstate the ban on open gays and lesbians in the military, and set up a panel to investigate GLBT Americans.
Moreover, Besen noted, anti-gay religious group The American Family Association has already begun the work of organizing the nation’s conservative churches into a massive political engine that could have a significant impact on the 2012 elections.
"If the Religious Right can organize and mobilize to stand up for its beliefs in such a robust manner, why can’t the Religious Left?" Besen wondered. "We desperately need to answer this question before Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin defile America -- and permanently define Christianity."