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Religion Last Updated: Mar 15th, 2006 - 00:48:58

Easter Eggs and Equality Riders: The �hypocrisy and intellectual constipation of Bible literalists�
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Mar 15, 2006, 00:35

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Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr.�s article �Time to stop hiding behind the Bible: Scripture seems to be taken literally only when it�s convenient -- such as with gay issues� put it bluntly and simply: �I�ve had it up to here with the moral hypocrisy and intellectual constipation of Bible literalists.� Mr. Pitts was writing an open letter to Donna Reddick, �a teacher who condemned homosexuality as part of a broadcast at Miami Sunset Senior High.�

Allow me to expand Mr. Pitts� comments to some more well-known homophobes who like to wrap themselves in the Bible and what they call �traditional values.�

Louis P. Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), is without doubt one of -- if not the -- most obsessive-compulsive homophobic bigots in America today. Since 1972 he has dedicated his life to damning, demeaning, disenfranchising and hurting gay and lesbian Americans -- and their families -- in any way he can. Not surprisingly, his daughter, Andrea Lafferty, is following in her father�s footsteps, perhaps even making bigger ones.

I�ve studied and written about Rev. Sheldon�s politicized homophobia for several years now. Early on, he struck back. Fair is fair. But what isn�t fair or remotely reasonable is Lafferty�s comments. Most recently she got her knickers in a twist about �gay families� participating in the annual Ester Egg roll at the White House. Even British websites recognized Lafferty�s homophobic anti-family stance:

�Approximately 9 million children are being raised in LGBT-headed households. Our parents live in every corner of this country, rural and urban, red states and blue states, and we strive like every other parent in this country to give our children the best opportunities, to shower them with love, to teach them respect and a love for the rich and diverse traditions America has to offer them,� said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director [of Family Pride].

�By participating in this American tradition we hope to show our children a great time while introducing our families to the American public in a genuine and respectful way. I know my four-year-old twin sons are going to have a terrific time and I invite anyone with children to come to this cherished event.�

However some groups are reacting less positively to the plans, Andrea Lafferty from church lobby group, the Traditional Values Coalition said, �For crying out loud, at the Easter Egg roll? This is a family event.� [link added]

Clearly, like her father, Mrs. Lafferty does not consider those 9 million children being raised by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents as �families.� How much more bigoted and mean-spirited can you get? The Traditional Values Coalition has fought every legal effort to recognize those families and give them the same social and economic benefits other families enjoy. How much more hateful and harmful can you get?

In her tirade, Mrs. Lafferty also called the inclusion of these children in the Easter Egg roll �very distasteful� and claimed it was inappropriate to politicize the occasion and to use children to do so. Yet she, her father and the TVC constantly use the �protect the children� mantra in their political campaigns against these children�s parents. How can they claim to �protect the children� -- or even care about them -- when they fight to make sure these kids and their families are disenfranchised socially and excluded from legal and economic recognition? And Lafferty has the nerve to talk about �politicizing� the Easter Egg roll?

Consider this previous anti-gay, anti-children rant from Lafferty and the TVC:

Federal AIDS Funding Fuels AIDS Epidemic

Washington, DC - On Sunday afternoon (June 3 [2004]), hundreds of homosexual AIDS activist groups will descend upon Washington, DC to demand cheaper AIDS drugs, taxpayer-funded AIDS programs overseas, and more federal funding of AIDS educational programs.

�This coalition is demanding more money for AIDS education, yet it never advocates discouraging the main cause of AIDS infection: homosexual sex,� said Andrea Lafferty, Executive Director of Traditional Values Coalition today. �In fact, our research has shown that federal AIDS programs actually encourage the sexual behavior that spreads AIDS infections.� . . .

TVC believes the federal government should prohibit homosexual AIDS activist groups or health organizations controlled by homosexuals from receiving tax dollars. �This money is fueling homosexual activism and spreading AIDS. It should only go to AIDS organizations that do not have a homosexual agenda,� said Lafferty. �We don't give money to drug traffickers to stop the flow of drugs into our country. Nor should we be giving AIDS money to homosexuals who continue to engage in the sexual behavior that spreads AIDS.� [italics added]

�Cheaper AIDS drugs.� Who doesn�t want cheaper prescription drugs, especially when they mean the difference between life and death? Anyone who would argue against cheaper prescription medicines is either a flunky lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry or devoid of morals, ethics, and compassion. Perhaps all of the above.

No doubt Lafferty would claim gays who contracted HIV �deserved� it because of their behavior and, therefore, don�t deserve cheaper drugs: as Daddy Lou proclaimed, �Homosexual Sex = Death from HIV Infection.� Would she, Rev. Sheldon and the TVC make the same argument in relation to unreasonably priced cancer drugs for those whose behavior was responsible for the disease, such as lung cancer from smoking or skin cancer from sun-tanning? How about prescription meds for those whose heart conditions were brought on by their cholesterol-rich diets?

Taxpayer-funded AIDS programs overseas.� Lafferty�s compassion -- or rather lack thereof -- is again obvious. Children in underdeveloped countries are among the largest group afflicted with HIV/AIDS. It seems she just doesn�t care, and certainly ignores Leviticus 19:18: �Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children . . ." For Lafferty and Sheldon, children are simply pawns in the TVC�s twisted political agenda.

TVC does not want �more federal funding of AIDS educational programs.� How anyone could or would argue against HIV/AIDS educational programs is difficult to understand. HIV/AIDS educational and prevention programs are necessary and, as independent research has shown, those that are real world directed experience success. But the TVC seems to want to curtail any program that makes hetero- and homo-sexual sex safer in the age of AIDS.

�The main cause of AIDS infection: homosexual sex.� The only �cause� of AIDS is infection by the HIV virus. But Lafferty�s statement is right in line with TVC's campaign of propaganda and lies that continues to cost people their lives. Not only is HIV the only �cause� of AIDS -- a condition that may or may not develop after exposure to the virus -- but globally HIV/AIDS afflicts far more heterosexuals than homosexuals and, as previously noted, children.

Ignorance, lack of HIV awareness programs and access to condoms are primary contributing factors in the spread of the virus. Not surprisingly, the TVC has consistently opposed HIV awareness and condom distribution programs (especially when they involve sexually active young people), as well as scientific research and funding for programs (at home and abroad) that may help people and bring truth and knowledge to those most in need.

A November 2004 article by Dale Keiger in Johns Hopkins Magazine attested to TVC�s malevolent activities. The article explained how �In October 2003, conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives prompted a hearing on 10 research grants funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).� But when �NIH staff member contacted the House Energy and Commerce Committee, co-sponsor of the hearing, and requested a list of the grants in question,� they "got back more than expected: not summaries of 10 projects, but page after page of NIH grants, dozens of them, all seemingly listed because the research involved prostitution, substance abuse, homosexuality, or sexually transmitted diseases. By mistake, someone on Energy and Commerce had revealed a list that was making the rounds of Republican members of Congress, a list of 181 NIH-funded researchers whose studies had been targeted by a conservative religious lobbying group, the Traditional Values Coalition."

Lafferty defended the hit list by saying, �The list was a draft. It wasn�t even finished. We�ve been compiling this information through various means, and also through the Internet. A lot of it is public information. The accusation has been that I was put up to this by the administration. I had this information long before Bush was even a candidate for president, and had been tracking it and tracking it.�

Lafferty�s response simply confirmed that TVC�s assault on medical research and scientific knowledge that could help people -- especially if those people are those she and TVC object to or use as political pawns -- has been a well planned, long standing campaign of the most sinister kind.

�Our research has shown that federal AIDS programs actually encourage the sexual behavior that spreads AIDS infections.� TVC�s self-serving �research� (aka propaganda) is more than highly suspect, to say the least.

�Prohibit homosexual AIDS activist groups or health organizations controlled by homosexuals from receiving tax dollars.� To prohibit some of the groups most active and successful in AIDS prevention and awareness programs from receiving public support seems the epitome of blind stupidity. �Health organizations controlled by homosexuals�: how would TVC determine �control�? Does that mean any senior officials who are gay? Does that mean any field workers who are gay, since they are the ones delivering the message? These suggestions from TVC are as ill-informed as Mrs. Lafferty�s notion of the �cause� of AIDS, but they do coincide with TVC�s attempt to stop legitimate research that could help people, including children and young adults.

They also well illustrate Sheldon�s, Lafferty�s and the TVC�s blind obsession with demeaning gay and lesbian Americans, no matter who else gets hurt, including children. Their website proclaims the Traditional Values Coalition is �Empowering People of Faith through Knowledge.� Nothing could be further from the truth. �Fueling the Fires of Hate and Bigotry� would be a more appropriate slogan.

Even Laura Bush, whose husband is definitely not a friend of gay and lesbian families, but whose anti-gay agenda is avidly supported by Sheldon, Lafferty and the TVC, has seemingly recognized the ignorance and malevolence the Traditional Values Coalition represents: ��It�s [the Easter Egg roll] an event that has a great tradition, and all families are welcome to attend,� said Peter Watkins, deputy press secretary to First Lady Laura Bush, who is the official overseer of the roll.�

But never fear. Jerry Falwell is here to protect �children� (aka students) at his misnamed �university.� Following in the footsteps of the 1961 Freedom Riders who exposed religion-based discrimination against African-Americans, the Soulforce Equality Ride began their journey to expose similar religion-based discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. Like the Freedom Riders that included blacks and whites, the 35 Equality Riders included both gays and straights, ranging in age from 18 to 28 years old. Their first stop was Falwell�s �Liberty� University on March 10, where 24 of them were arrested and face possible $2,500 fines and a year in jail.

Falwell had warned the Equality Riders not to pollute his children with truth or reality:

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, the university�s chancellor, said the Ride is nothing more than a fundraising ploy and media event.

�The parents of our students have entrusted their sons and daughters to our care,� he said in a statement. �Liberty has an obligation to these parents not to expose their children to a �media circus� that might present immorality in a positive light.�

Yet �over the years, Falwell�s various religious and political groups have used fear and condemnation of gay people to help raise an amount of money estimated in the tens of millions to help build his Lynchburg-based media, educational, and lobbying empire.�

And no one is more of a �media circus� than Jerry Falwell: from claiming gays were responsible for the 9/11 attacks to his preposterous statement that �The Bible is the inerrant . . . word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible, without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etc.� [italics added] That�s a position he maintains: �I will continue to stand against the evolutionary and secularist tides by proclaiming that God spoke the heavens and the earth into existence in six literal days.� Six �literal days?� Quite a trick since the sun was not created until the fourth day.

Falwell has a long history of staging hate-based media events. In July 1984, Falwell was forced to pay gay activist Jerry Sloan $5,000 after losing a court battle. During a TV debate in Sacramento, Falwell denied calling the gay-oriented Metropolitan Community Churches �brute beasts� and �a vile and Satanic system� that will �one day be utterly annihilated and there will be a celebration in heaven.� When Sloan insisted he had a tape, Falwell promised $5,000 if he could produce it. Sloan did so, but Falwell refused to pay and Sloan sued, successfully. Falwell appealed, with his attorney charging that the Jewish judge in the case was prejudiced. He lost again and was forced to pay an additional $2,875 in sanctions and court fees.

In March 1993, despite his promise to Jewish groups to stop referring to America as a �Christian nation,� Falwell gave a sermon saying, �We must never allow our children to forget that this is a Christian nation. We must take back what is rightfully ours.�

In April 1996, Falwell hosted a �Washington for Jesus� rally in the nation�s capital at which he held a mock trial of America for engaging in seven deadly sins: persecution of the church, homosexuality, abortion, racism, occultism, addictions and HIV/AIDS (acronym: PHAROAH). After appointing himself judge and jury, Rev. Falwell declared the nation guilty �of violating God�s law.�

Ironically, last year the Soulforce tour members weregreeted with cookies not police when members met with Liberty students on campus.� But not this year. When �comparing homosexuals to drug users and adulterers, Liberty senior Tray Faulkner said the university disapproves of any alternative lifestyle. �I know you guys don't think it�s a sin,� he said. �We do.��

The chancellor agreed: �we [will not] permit them [the Equality Riders] to espouse opinions or otherwise suggest beliefs or lifestyles that are in opposition to the morals and values that this institution promotes.� Apparently �equality� is against the �moral values� Liberty University promotes, and you have to wonder if Mr. Faulkner�s wardrobe obeys Leviticus19:19 that forbids wearing garments made of two different kinds of threads, or if he organizes campus gathering to stone to death students -- who, if they fail an exam, might utter the words �goddamn it� -- as ordered in Leviticus 24:16: �And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him.� Selective hypocrisy is the academic standard at �Liberty� University.

Regent University was the next scheduled stop for the Equality Riders. The school is the �vision� of Pat Robertson: �Dr. M. G. �Pat� Robertson, founder and president of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), had an inspired vision to establish a graduate-level institution that would train men and women for the challenge of representing Christ in their professions. In 1978, Robertson�s vision materialized, as 70 students began classes� [link added]. Robertson remains Chancellor and President of Regent University.

Given Robertson�s views of homosexuality and homosexuals, it was not really surprising that Regent University �uninvited� the Equality Riders and, like Liberty University, threatened to have them arrested.

The Equality Ride is sponsored by Soulforce, an organization co-founded by the Rev. Mel White, a former ghostwriter for Robertson, who acknowledged his homosexuality in 1993. In 1995, White was arrested for trespassing after trying to meet with Robertson in Virginia Beach.

The decision to bar the group reversed an invitation made by the school last month when Vice President of Academic Affairs Randall Pannell said the college was �looking forward to the Equality Ride�s visit�:

�We had remained optimistic that forums for genuine dialogue would emerge with Regent University,� said Equality Rider Chad Grandy, the point person for Regent.

The college says the decision to �uninvite� the Soulforce riders was based in part on a statement on the ride�s Web site that says Regent has a policy banning GLBT students.

�Banning GLBT students� is a tricky phrase. On page 25 of the Regent University Student Handbook, under the heading �Honor Code,� item 7 states �Sexual misconduct. Disorderly conduct or lewd, indecent or obscene conduct or expression, involvement with pornography, premarital sex, adultery, homosexual conduct or any other conduct, which violates Biblical standards, is prohibited� [italics added]. Other �Biblical standards� banned include lying and profanity. One has to wonder if Regent University takes action against all those who violate these �Biblical standards,� or if GLBT student are singled out for special attention, as Haven Herrin, co-director of the Equality Ride, suggested: �we have stories from students there who have suffered under discrimination.�

Regent University, like Falwell�s Liberty University, insists on �Biblical standards.� Surely �God�s� Commandments to Moses -- all three versions of them (Exodus 20, Exodus 34, and Deuteronomy 5) -- would qualify as such �standards.�

Exodus 20:7: �Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.� Surely someone at Regent University and Liberty University has done that.

Exodus 20:10 clearly states �But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work.� (Exodus 34:21) proclaims the same.) Do Regent University and Liberty University students and faculty uphold that commandment, even during exam periods?

And Deuteronomy 5:8 clearly sates �Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth� [italics added]. Surely there are Christian �images� everywhere on the Regent and Liberty University campuses.

Odd, isn�t it? What what�s missing from all three versions of the Commandments is any mention of homosexuality. They can be found only in Levitical laws and the epistles of Paul who, in First Timothy instructed Christians �suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence� because �Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, was in the transgression.� Are women �kept in their place� at Regent and Liberty Universities as this �Biblical standard� commands?

Sheldon and Lafferty, Falwell and Robertson, and all the other sanctimonious, Bible-thumping �Christians� would do well to read the whole of Miami Herald�s columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.�s article. Here�s an excerpt:

Put simply, I�ve had it up to here with the moral hypocrisy and intellectual constipation of Bible literalists.

By which I mean people like you [Donna Reddick], who dress up their homophobia in Scripture, insisting with sanctimonious sincerity that it's not homophobia at all, but just a pious determination to live according to what the Bible says. And never mind that the Bible also says it is �disgraceful� for a woman to speak out in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-36) and that if she has any questions, she should wait till she gets home and ask her husband. Never mind that the Bible says the penalty for going to work on Sunday (Exodus 35:1-3) is death. Never mind that the Bible says the man who rapes a virgin should buy her from her father (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and marry her.

I�m going to speculate that you don�t observe or support those commands. Which says to me that yours is a literalism of convenience, a literalism that is literal only so long as it allows you to condemn what you�d be condemning anyway and takes no skin off your personal backside. As such, your claim that God sanctions your homophobia is the moral equivalent of Flip Wilson�s old claim that the devil made him do it. [link added]

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