The religious right would like you to believe that all it wants is to give social conservatives a place at the table. After all, they’re pretty quick to speak up at the slightest hint that we treat people of faith unfairly. But from time to time, the nation’s so-called moral guardians reveal that they’re the real bullies.
A lovely example of this came earlier this week, when a religious right radio host put a new twist on an old trope about gays and lesbians. If it were up to him, society would treat them the same as child molesters.
For some time, a staple of religious right rhetoric has been to claim that gays want to “recruit” people–especially children–into the gay lifestyle. For instance, back in 1977 gospel singer Anita Bryant led a campaign to overturn a Dade County, Florida ordinance that barred discrimination on account of sexual orientation. She famously claimed that gays “must recruit our children” since they can’t have children of their own. This line has continued in one form or another ever since. Indeed, Gay-Straight Alliances and anti-bullying campaigns are seen as stalking horses for recruitment efforts.
A related smear is to claim that homosexuality and pedophilia are one and the same. For instance, back in 2012, rabidly anti-gay pastor and homeschooling guru Kevin Swanson claimed that Jerry Sandusky’s four-decade rampage of child molestation was proof positive that homosexuality must be a capital offense. Along similar lines, when the American Family Association’s Pennsylvania chapter posted about the Sandusky scandal, nearly all of the posts were tagged under “Homosexual Agenda.”
Additionally, Mat Staver and Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel raised the specter of a Sandusky becoming a scoutmaster if gays were allowed to become scout leaders. No, this isn’t snark. Watch here.
This context is needed to understand a discussion that took place on Tuesday’s edition of “Stand in the Gap,” the official radio show of the American Pastors Network. Hosts Dave Kistler, Sam Rohrer and Gary Dull were not pleased to hear about a sermon preached by Southern Baptist Convention president J. D. Greear on Sunday. Greear told his congregation at Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina that homosexuality was “no worse a sin than others.”
That didn’t sit well with Kistler. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Kistler, himself a North Carolinian, wondered how Greear’s claim that homosexuality was merely an “affliction” rather than a “sinful choice” would sound if you replaced “homosexuality” with “pedophilia.” To Kistler’s mind, Greear’s sermon was a sign that society has “soft-pedaled homosexuality.” Kistler noted that pedophilia “still has a stigma to it,” homosexuality no longer has such a stigma.
For Kistler, the fact that we no longer treat homosexuality in the same way as pedophilia is a bad sign, since homosexuality is “an abominable choice.” Indeed, Kistler said, God “takes a particular view” toward homosexuality–that it is supposedly “the consummate example … of defiance against the God of heaven.”
Hardcore fundies are not known for having a sense of proportion. But this argument from Kistler is particularly tone-deaf. Let’s say it nice and slow. Pedophilia puts innocent children in harm’s way. That is why nearly all federal and state jurisdictions treat it almost on the same level as murder. Sandusky, for instance, is serving a minimum of 30 years in prison–effectively a life sentence at his age.
Apparently if Kistler had his way, we would treat gay rights groups in the same manner as the National Man-Boy Love Association, long the principal advocacy group for “civil rights” for pedophiles. NAMBLA has effectively been driven out of existence due to years of law enforcement scrutiny and well-deserved public opprobrium. In particular, the 1993 release of the documentary film “Chicken Hawk,” intended to let NAMBLA members speak for themselves, caused the few groups willing to work with NAMBLA to drop them like bad meat. It has effectively been reduced to a handful of diehard members and a sporadically updated Website.
That treatment is well deserved for people who actively prey on children. To suggest that we should treat people who simply want to be accepted as normal members of society in the same manner is patently outrageous, even by religious right standards. File this screed away the next time a religious right leader claims that they’re merely trying to protect people of faith from being bullied.
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