Evangelical leaders cannot be this ignorant, but passing lies to their followers is how they keep their control. On James Dobson’s radio, Rick Scarborough again claimed that banning “ex-gay” conversion therapy for minors will outlaw Christianity and cause pastors to be arrested and imprisoned. He lied about how the 2009 Hate Crimes law was written to make any pastor preaching against homosexualty guilty of an accessory to a hate crime if a listener hearing the sermon attacks someone. Later in the program, Dobson opposed pastors “who are compassionate toward those who have attractions to same-sex individuals.” He said:
“I would like them to think, just for a moment, about ‘LGBT,’ The ‘B’ stand for bisexual! That’s orgies! Are you really going to support this?”
In reference to the misguided far-right premise that Christians suffer discrimination, Alvin McEwen wrote:
“For decades, anti-gay organizations and their supporters have portrayed the LGBT community as child molesting, diseased, sexually aggressive miscreants whose sole desire is to cause chaos before being sent to the lower pits of hell after we die for our supposed sins. Through lies, distortions, and bad science, anti-gay groups made it difficult for laws to be passed to protect our interests, health, and families. They created and repeated ad nauseam the false mantra that we are a “public health hazard” and our lives are fraught with pain, sadness, loneliness, and early death.
“Suddenly … they want the world to forget all of the ignorance they exploited, the lies they told, and the tactics they undertook to dehumanize the LGBT community. They want us to forget the times when folks like Anita Bryant accused LGBTs of ‘recruiting’children to ‘refreshen’ our ranks. They want us to forget the officials in the Reagan Administration who kept the president from adequately addressing the AIDS crisis in its early days. They want us to forget the names and faces of people whose lives were destroyed via homophobic violence or suicide most likely spurred on by the nods of societal homophobia….
“And most of all, they want us to forget that all of this was done either directly by them or through their tacit approval.
“Sorry guys, you are not victims. You never were. You can’t pretend that any of these things I just talked about didn’t happen. You can’t pretend that somehow where we are now when it comes to LGBT equality just happened in vacuum.”
The philosophy of fundamentalist Christian churches may, however, be shifting. Andy Stanley, evangelical pastor of Atlanta (GA) megachurch North Point Ministries, disagrees with his pastor father Charles Stanley, the anti-gay leader of First Baptist Church Atlanta. The younger Stanley said that church should be considered the “safest place on the planet” for young LGBT people and wants religion to stop chasing them away. He added:
“If all the Christians for just one year, would quit looking at porn, would quit smoking weed, would quit having premarital sex, would quit committing adultery, would pay their taxes, and every church just foster one kid—in one year our nation would feel different.”
A recent poll shows how the religious right is losing the opposition to LGBT people. In a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, 61 percent of the respondents said they’d be either enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay presidential candidate. Only 52 percent said the same thing about an evangelical candidate, and the percentage went down to 33 percent for a Tea Partier. The same poll shows that 58 percent want the Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage equality while only 37 percent opposed this ruling. Only 20 percent thought society had gone too far in accepting LGBT people.
Courts may also be moving away from the far right as they rule for separation of church and state. Almost exactly one year after the Supreme Court ruled in Town of Greece v. Galloway that chaplains could open town meetings with prayers, a federal court decision struck down sectarian invocations before Rowan County (NC) Board of Commissioners. Because 97 percent of these prayers between 2007 and 2013 were Christian, the court concluded the prayers coerced people into participating in religious practices. U.S. District Court Judge James A. Beaty concluded that the prayers coerced people into participating in religious practices because 97 percent of the prayers between 2007 and 2013 were Christian. Five years ago, he had made the same ruling for Forsyth County, a decision that was overturned by Greece.
After the decision came down for separation of church and state in Rowan County, a county commissioner in neighboring Lincoln County railed against “changing rules on the way the United States was founded, Constitution was founded.” Carrol Mitchem declared, “I don’t need no Arab or Muslim or whoever telling me what to do or us here in the county what to do about praying. If they don’t like it, stay the hell away.” He’s pretty sure than all the houses of worship in his county are Christian: “I just don’t know that there’s any Jewish pastors or anything like that in Lincoln County.” Mitchem doesn’t even know that Muslims believe in the same god as Christians and Jews. He might take comfort in knowing that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas believes that states are exempt from the constitutional separation of church and state.
In Nebraska, U.S. District Court Judge John M. Gerrard dismissed the lawsuit Driskell v. Homosexuals, in which Sylvia Driskell, 66, wanted the court to decide that homosexuality is a sin. Gerrard ruled that the matter is not within the court’s jurisdiction and found the lawsuit without merit. He wrote:
“The United States Federal Courts were created to resolve actual cases and controversies arising under the Constitution and the laws of the United States. A federal court is not a forum for debate or discourse on theological matters.”
Not all jurisdictions are as enlightened. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) told lawmakers that “we must improve early education,” but hand-picked aides to the further-right (if possible) Lt.Gov. Dan Patrick oppose putting children in the “Godless environment” of preschools. “We are experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our young children from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers’ day out programs to a Godless environment with only evidence showing absolutely NO LONG-TERM BENEFITS beyond the 1st grade,” a letter stated. It compared preschools to programs “historically promoted in socialistic countries, not free societies which respect parental rights.”
Cochran (GA) decided it will take down the Christian flag flying over City Hall for the planned Bible Reading Marathon annually conducted on the city hall steps since 2008. The city’s attorney couldn’t discourage them from selecting only this one religion, but letters from Americans United for Separation of Church and State increased pressure on the town to follow the U.S. Constitution. A letter from the City Council citing “a second legal opinion from a constitutional lawyer” promised to remove the flag on May 8—after the Bible Reading Marathon was finished. There was no word about the flags flying at the Bleckley County Courthouse and other public places. Of course, the flag didn’t come down until the town had finished its Christian business on the steps of the city hall.
The most classic refusal of service this past week isn’t because of religion, but it shows that people working at businesses have the opinion that they have the choice not to provide services. A male clerk in Iowa refused to sell British singer/songwriter and podcaster Mary Epworth tampons because he thinks that menstruating is “gross.” When Epworth put the box of cotton plugs on the counter, the clerk said, “I can’t sell these.” He called on a female clerk, who looked as if this wasn’t the first time he had done this. This denigration toward women’s needs is the same as a House hearing on female contraception that had no women witnesses.
Conservatives fight regulations, but these may be important so that women can get something as simple as a box of tampons. Or so that people can attend a meeting or send their kids to preschool without religion forced on them. Or LGBT people can get jobs—or just wedding cakes. Carrol Mitchem thinks that the U.S. Constitution protects only the majority of people. At this time, white men are a growing minority, and Mitchem may need his nation’s constitution to protect his minority rights.