Sunday, June 26, 2016

"Nice" Responses to the Orlando Shooting Don't Erase Past Homophobia

Following the Orlando massacre at the Pulse nightclub, some Religious Right figures responded with naked hatred. Others took a more subtle approach, denouncing the shooter's violence and extreme homophobia without rejecting homophobia completely. By doing this, they created the appearance of compassion, but refused to grapple with their own bigotry.

First, on June 12th, Sen. Ted Cruz released a statement denouncing the "act of vicious terrorism" and expressing sympathy for the victims and their loved ones. After urging Americans to work together to defeat Islamic extremism, Cruz proceeded to attack Democrats ("Democrats will try to use this attack to change the subject"), and President Obama and Hillary Clinton (who will supposedly use Orlando to undermine gun rights).

Perhaps the most disingenuous part of Cruz's statement was his condemnation of Islamic extremists' homophobia.
"For all the Democrats who are loud champions of the gay and lesbian community whenever there is a culture battle waging, now is the opportunity to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians. ISIS and the theocracy in Iran (supported with American taxpayer dollars) regularly murder homosexuals, throwing them from buildings and burying them under rocks. This is wrong, it is evil, and we must all stand against it. Every human being has a right to live according to his or her faith and conscience, and nobody has a right to murder someone who doesn’t share their faith or sexual orientation. If you’re a Democratic politician and you really want to stand for LGBT, show real courage and stand up against the vicious ideology that has targeted our fellow Americans for murder."
How ironic that Cruz would condemn Islamic extremist homophobia while ignoring the fundamentalist Christian homophobia that he and his ilk have promoted for years. This is the same Ted Cruz who opposed same-sex marriage during his now defunct presidential campaign. This is the Ted Cruz who appeared on stage at the Freedom 2015: The National Religious Liberties Conference alongside the viciously homophobic Kevin Swanson. This is the Ted Cruz who accepted the endorsement of IHOP pastor Mike Bickle, who has raged against the "gay agenda" for years. This is the Ted Cruz who welcomed the support of countless homophobes, such as Phil Robertson, Flip Benham, and Ron Baity, while running for president. Does Cruz really expect us to believe that he cares about LGBTQ people now?

The Benham Brothers also weighed in after the Orlando shooting. In a video posted at CNS News and MRC TV, the brothers expressed sympathies for the families of the lost. "Our hearts are just broken for the families and for the victims of those who were killed at the gay bar, the gay club in Orlando, Florida," Davin Benham said, according to CNS News. "No one should ever be targeted like this, this ISIS plot. And clearly they’re targeting homosexual people." The brothers expressed relief that a similar incident may have been prevented at Los Angeles Pride.

However, Jason Benham reminded viewers that they still disapprove of homosexuality, but they do not believe that violence is a legitimate expression of those sentiments.
"We as Christians believe that homosexuality is wrong, and ... these two Islamic extremists ... believe it is wrong. But our response is different. We've been going to gay pride marches for the last decade, and we're planning on going this year to the Charlotte gay pride march. But you know what? We're going to bring the love of Jesus, to people that need Jesus. Look, these are our gay brothers and sisters, and we need to stand up for them now. That's our Christian response."

Translation: We're nice homophobes, not like those bad homophobes who kill people.

Jason Benham's claim that he and his brother love gay people is laughable. Recall that the Benham brothers' claim to fame was losing an HGTV series due to David Benham's offensive comments about gays. The two men have an extensive history of homophobic remarks and have publicly opposed pro-LGBTQ legislation. They can attend a pride march and talk about the "love of Jesus", but it won't make people forget their history of intolerance.

Finally, World Net Daily co-founder Joseph Farah decried the massacre in an online column. In a June 12th commentary piece entitled "All Americans Have Something in Common Today", Farah admits that the Pulse shooting was a hate crime committed in cold blood. "Was the Pulse nightclub attacked because it was a gathering place of homosexuals? I don’t doubt it for a minute," he writes. Farah explains that murdering LGBTQ people is wrong, no matter how one feels about LGBTQ issues.
"I must note, for the record, that whatever real Americans think about “gays,” lesbians, transgenders, bisexuals, they don’t hold murder in their heart for them. Whatever issues Christians may have with the LGBT agenda being foisted on them by politicians eager to court their support as an interest group, they don’t hunt down people who identify with that lifestyle and kill them. Whatever conservatives may think about national bathroom policies dictated from the White House, they don’t dream of killing sprees of vengeance."
Farah thinks that one can oppose LGBTQ equality without being hateful, which is false. The LGBTQ community is demanding equal rights, not foisting an "agenda" on Christians. Farah cannot even condemn the Orlando massacre without taking swipes at LGBTQ people.

Farah's swipes should not surprise us, given his history of denigrating LGBTQ people. In past World Net Daily columns, Farah mocked same-sex marriage activists and Hamas in the same breath, claimed that same-sex marriage could lead to polygamy and incest, and branded gays a "self-interested minority" whose activism set the stage for the Penn State abuse scandal. It's a shame that the Orlando massacre did not dent his anti-gay attitudes.

The Religious Right could have used this tragedy as an opportunity for self-reflection. A hate crime of this magnitude should have forced them to recognize LGBTQ people's humanity and question their own bigotry. Unfortunately, they've blamed everything else for the Orlando shooting except the homophobia they helped cultivate. Some blame the victims. Others blame national impiety. Some even blame immigration policies. None of them want to blame homophobia as a whole, because that would force them to admit that they fed the fires of hatred that galvanized Omar Mateen.

Of course, these figures don't want to be seen as heartless. They condemn the shooter. They offer compassion. They claim to love the LGBTQ community. However, most people see through their facade. Their history of anti-LGBTQ activism speaks louder than any of their words.

There is no such thing as "nice" bigotry. Bigotry is bigotry, and it differs only by degree. If the Religious Right truly wants to honor the people who were killed or injured in Orlando, its members must renounce bigotry outright and atone for their anti-LGBTQ activism.

Fellow blogger Infidel753 sums up the matter succinctly.
"The gist of it is that the less-murderous form of homophobia promoted by most fundamentalist Christians -- denouncing homosexuality as a sin, wanting to "cure" it by prayer or "therapy", and the many forms of ostracism and denigration and discrimination promoted via "religious freedom" bills and other laws targeting gays -- should be accepted and embraced since they are, after all, not as bad as actually killing gays as the Islamists do.

By this kind of argument, the Holocaust should have legitimized and justified lesser forms of anti-Semitism, since those who wanted to subject Jews to lesser abuses than the gas chambers could similarly have pointed out that their bigotry was different in character from Hitler's; blacks, too, should have accepted and embraced the oppression of the Jim Crow era since it was not as bad as slavery.  The idea that a group should simply accept certain forms of abuse against itself, because other forms of abuse which others want to inflict would be even worse, is one that can be made only from a position of utterly oblivious privilege.  It seems to be the default Christianist response to Orlando, though."

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Fusion: These anti-LGBT politicians are sending prayers to Orlando massacre victims, whom they considered second-class citizens

Friendly Atheist: Bryan Fischer: We Don’t Want Gay People Dead; We Want Them Cured

The Maddow Blog: Cruz sees Orlando massacre as possible wedge issue

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