Monday, May 7, 2012

Pro-LGBT Advocates Condemn Scott Lively's Visit to Oklahoma City

On April 27-29, Draper Park Christian Church in Oklahoma City hosted anti-LGBT activist Scott Lively for a weekend of talks on the so-called gay agenda. The Draper Park website describes Lively's talks in blatantly anti-LGBT language : "THE L.G.B.T. LONG CON – Its mission to neutralize Bible-based Christianity; how it’s been done before & is succeeding now; & what you must do about it." (See draperparkokc[dot]org/index.php/exposing-the-long-con-of-the-gay-lesbian-agenda/)

Scott Lively, founder of Abiding Truth Ministries and author of The Pink Swastika, is an American preacher with a long history of anti-LGBT activism, as documented by Right Wing Watch and Box Turtle Bulletin. Republic of Gilead has posted on Lively's disturbing rhetoric here and here.

Lively is one of several American Christian and anti-gay figures who promoted anti-gay sentiments in Uganda, a situation discussed in a 2010 report by the Advocate. In 2009, Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Don Schmierer (a board member of "ex-gay" group Exodus International) spoke at an Ugandan conference on the "gay agenda", soon after which Ugandan MP David Bahati introduced a draconian anti-gay bill. Lively claimed that the bill was "a step in the right direction". In an interview with Vanguard correspondent Mariana von Zeller, he claimed that he helped start the so-called "pro-family" movement in Uganda. Lively's activism earned him the ire of Sexual Minorities Uganda, the country's most prominent LGBT advocacy organization. On March 14th, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against Lively on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda.

Other advocacy groups have condemned Lively's anti-gay crusade. Human Rights Watch nominated Lively for its 2011 "Homophobia Hall of Shame", and the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled Abiding Truth Ministries a hate group.

The Cimmaron Alliance, an LGBT advocacy group in central Oklahoma, immediately took notice. In an online statement, Cimmaron Alliance executive director Scott Hamilton described Lively as a "holocaust-revisionist of the worst order" and expressed dismay at his Draper Park speaking engagement.

Oklahoma, Inside Out, the broadcast of the Cimmaron Alliance, hosted a panel discussion on April 28th in response to Lively's Oklahoma visit. The discussion, entitled "Speaking Only the Truth" took place at the Church of the Open Arms in Oklahoma City. The panel included Cimmaron Alliance executive director Scott Hamilton, Truth Wins Out executive director Wayne Besen, reparative therapy survivor Pastor Neil Spurgeon, and Respect Diversity Foundation founder Michael Kornblitt.

At the 7:06 mark, Scott Hamilton spoke of The Pink Swastika with disgust, adding that Scott Lively's base is strong enough to allow him to travel across the country.
"I'm holding in my hand a book that could almost persuade me to be in support of book burnings. This book is called The Pink Swastika. I have never in my life had such a difficult time paying for something, because I knew what I was buying was anything but the truth. As I read through these words of Scott Lively, I was astounded to think that anybody could believe what he's writing. The sad truth is that people are believing it. His base is growing, and as testament to that someone is paying for him to fly to Oklahoma City to teach and preach here in our city. That's a shame."
At the 8:18 mark, Wayne Besen stressed to the audience that Lively is a dangerous anti-LGBT advocate.
"There are levels of malevolence within these anti-gay circles, and there are people at the top of that pyramid who are known for their dedication, for getting up in the morning and looking for ways to smear our community, destroy us as individuals and as a community, and Scott Lively is in the top echelon of trying to do that. I mean after all, we're talking about a person who hates us so much that he's written a book trying to blame the Holocaust on LGBT people ... His M.O. is he takes a really horrible event in history and he tries to attach it to us ... His ultimate goal, if you look very closely at his work, is to have us eradicated, whether it's through death, as we saw what happened in Uganda with the anti-homosexuality bill, or just to have us imprisoned or forced into therapy. This is somebody who is incredibly dangerous, an individual who's an extremist, and in my view is a menace to society."
After describing The Pink Swastika as Holocaust revisionism and an anti-gay smear campaign, Besen discussed Lively's global anti-LGBT activism. He reminded listeners that the countries targeted by Lively lack the same freedom of speech protections as the U.S., making it more difficult for their LGBT communities to defend themselves. At the 19:12 mark, he had this to say.
"When his message was not doing quite as well in the United States ... as he's losing ground and traction here, he's taking his message overseas to places like Uganda, Eastern Europe, Russia, and other places where there's not the sort of freedom of speech and expression and the roots within an LGBT community that can speak up and fight back. When you have someone who lies like this, habitually does and is good at it, it's critical that we have groups like we have tonight, and seminars. Other countries don't have the luxury because it's too dangerous to sit down like we're doing and debunk these lies and myths, and Scott Lively's thriving on that. And that's why he's taking his horrific message around the world because if it can't be countered and people can't stand up to it, people will think his fiction is fact, and that's incredibly dangerous."
Unfortunately, the audio would not buffer past the 23:00 point, so I could not listen to the rest of the talk. Still, the participants in "Speaking Only the Truth" deserve praise for condemning Scott Lively's homophobia and standing up for LGBT rights.

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Wayne Besen attended Lively's talk at Draper Park Christian Church and posted audio from the talk at Truth Wins Out. Predictably, Lively's talk demonized homosexuality and defended homophobia as acceptable.

Lively began his talk by contrasting "rational" homophobia from "irrational" bigotries such as racism and sexism, citing Galatians 3:28 to defend his stance. Paradoxically, Lively defended discrimination against women in military combat in his next breath at the 1:15 mark.
"Now discrimination on whether or not women should be on the front lines of combat, there's a legitimate question, because then it brings in factors. It isn't simply irrational, it's rational because now you have a discussion of those aspects of--do we really want the people God created to be the nurturers and the ones that care for the little babies to be running across the battlefield with machine guns, shooting at the enemy, and all the other men are not going to be able to focus on the enemy but are going to be concerned about protecting the women. You may come down on different side of that argument."
At the 1:55 mark, Lively pathologized homosexuality, insisting that it poses a threat to societal well-being and public health.
"When it comes to homosexuality, we're talking about something that's not neutral. We're talking about voluntary sexual conduct with dramatic social and public health and moral implications ... If you're talking about two people engaging in sexual conduct, then that's something all of us have an interest in, in terms of what's going to happen if we simply embrace this in our society. To discriminate against homosexuality, the behavior of homosexuality, is not only rational, it's appropriate, it's even, I would argue, necessary because the consequences for not doing that are very serious."
At the 2:58 mark, Lively made the old, tired claim that anti-LGBT voices are being censored and suppressed.
"They've allowed themselves to be censored out of fear of being called a bigot, and so none of the people sitting in their classes, or hearing them on the radio, or hearing conversations hear these kinds of arguments. All they hear is the other side's arguments that discrimination against homosexuality is the same as discrimination against somebody on the basis of skin color."
Lively claimed that pro-LGBT voices have accused anti-LGBT voices of being mentally ill. He then defended anti-LGBT voices as "guardians of civilization" at the 9:58 mark.
"People who disagree with homosexuality are not mentally ill. In fact, we are guardians of civilization, those who want to preserve the marriage standards, [and] say sex belongs inside marriage. We shouldn't have sexual anarchy in our society. That's rational. We had a better society when those things were in focus."
Lively promoted tolerance for people's skin color and freedom of thought, but discouraged tolerance for homosexuality, lumping it into the same category as smoking marijuana and speeding. At the 14:29 mark, he had this to say.
"We should have low tolerance for smoking pot. We should have low tolerance fore engaging in homosexuality. We should have low tolerance for speeding on the highway. These kinds of things, they're not life-threatening in most cases, but we're not treating them as anything other than harmful behavior. They are harmful behavior."
At the 23:11 mark, Lively claimed that everyone is created as heterosexual, but then said that some people have a "homosexual orientation" that they struggle with. (?)
"Every single person is created as a heterosexual being with the capacity to engage in any form of sexual behavior. But why don't we do those things? Because we usually have standards that we won't allow ourselves to cross boundaries. Some people, unfortunately, have an inclination in them to do things that are evil, and it's harder for them to resist. It's harder for somebody who has a homosexual orientation. I'm not denying that some people have a homosexual orientation ... I know people that struggle with it and still struggle with it and haven't overcome it. But that doesn't mean that they're born that way, that they can't change and should be accepted and embraced and God should be called a liar."
At the 30:22 mark, Lively recounted a story in which he told a gathering of liberal young people that opposition to homosexuality was akin to environmentalism. Lively argued that just as destruction of ecosystems has harmful consequences, so too does destruction of the "natural family." Hilariously, he urged them to be open-minded.
"Environmentalism depends upon natural law presuppositions ... What is an ecosystem? An ecosystem is an acknowledgement that there is a design in nature, right? There's interdependence of species, biodiversity. All these are natural law concepts. Why are you opposed to someone coming in and cutting down all the trees in the rain forest? Why are you opposed to people putting poison in the tide pool? Because you know that things are supposed to be a certain way and that by doing these things, you're interrupting the natural order. All I'm asking you to do is open your minds a little bit ... and recognize that humanity has its own ecosystem called the natural family ... Just like if you go into the rain forest and cut down half the trees, bad things are going to happen. The same things is if you come in and say the father's not important, the mother's not important, you take them out, bad things are going to happen."
At the 43:19 mark, when Lively disputed the legitimacy of same-sex marriage, Wayne Besen challenged him, noting that the state of Vermont legitimizes his marriage to another man. Lively responded that the law once saw blacks as three-fifths of a person, which supposedly proved that the law is hollow unless grounded in God's "law above the law."
LIVELY: We are standing for the Biblical position that sex belongs inside of marriage, and that we do not legitimize sex outside of marriage ... Attempts to regulate what happens between married couples is an illegitimate form of government intrusion, but to regulate sex outside of marriage is a necessity of government because that's the only way we're able to keep [inaudible] marriage intact around the natural family.

MAN IN AUDIENCE: That's assuming a male and a female marry.

LIVELY: Well, that is the definition of marriage. We have to be careful.

MAN IN AUDIENCE: Just want to make sure.

LIVEY: There is no such thing as gay marriage. That is a--

BESEN: I'm legally married to a man, Scott. There is in Vermont where I live. That's not accurate.

LIVELY: That's a statutory definition.

BESEN: According to the law of Vermont, I'm married, and eleven countries and several different states, including Iowa, not too far from here.

LIVEY: In the 1800s, African Americans were three-fifths human beings, and that was the rule of law. It didn't make it right. There's a law above the law, and you cannot ... make a right of something that God has declared--

BESEN: Yes, and that was backed by people such as Jerry Falwell, for example, that believed in segregation based upon his interpretation of the Bible. As they say, even the devil can twist scripture, and of course, as a Holocaust revisionist, I would suggest that is what you're doing, sir.

LIVELY: I'm not going to debate with you. This is my presentation.
In conclusion, Lively's talk pathologized homosexuality, promoted an ahistorical vision of the family unit as static, and refused to grant legitimacy to LGBT rights. Many thanks to Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out for recording Lively's presentation and having the courage to confront Lively's noxious assumptions.

(Vigorous hat tips to Warren Throckmorton, Truth Wins Out, and Canyonwalker Connections.)

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