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Interim President Jeff Ettinger inside Morrill Hall on Sept. 20, 2023. Ettinger gets deep with the Daily: “It’s bittersweet.”
Ettinger reflects on his presidency
Published April 22, 2024

Christian Right fails to accept gay rights

Representatives of the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council will tell you that the Bible is clear in its condemnation of homosexual behavior. They run full-page newspaper ads claiming that, contrary to all scientific evidence, homosexuals are sinners who can be cured if they believe in Jesus Christ and pray hard enough. Yet they accept no responsibility for fostering lack of respect, intolerance and even violence towards gay men and lesbians.
These organizations claim recognizing the rights of gays and lesbians will lead to civil rights protections for pedophiles, sado-masochists, polygamists and those who practice bestiality or necrophilia. Allowing gays and lesbians to form families, they further contend, will destroy traditional marriage. They play on the fears of the American people. Yet they claim they have not contributed to the atmosphere that led to the brutal murder of Matthew Shepherd in Wyoming.
To their credit, representatives of the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council were quick to condemn the violence in Wyoming. But sadly, they couldn’t resist the opportunity to remind us of Mr. Shepherd’s “immoral lifestyle.”
The conservative Christian activists who comprise these organizations have a heartfelt belief that they must bring us to salvation. For them, the Bible is the only valid rule book for behavior and morality. The Bible trumps everything else, including the Constitution of the United States. If they can’t get us to believe as they do, they think that they can still help us by passing laws requiring us to behave properly. If we object, they feel sorry for us because we are lowly sinners, or they accuse us of religious bigotry for opposing them.
Conservative Christian organizations, leaders and activists have every right to judge their own and others’ behavior by biblical standards. They even have a right to pick and choose which biblical dictates they will follow and which they will ignore. Some accuse them of hypocrisy for this selectivity. I choose to call them fallible human beings, just like everyone else.
Biblical standards of conduct most certainly have shaped our laws. That is part of our heritage. But no matter how fervently conservative Christian activists want it to be the case, the United States, thankfully, is not a Christian Theocracy. In the United States, we respect the rights, beliefs and liberties of all citizens. Personal liberty is only curtailed when it interferes with the liberty of others. Having gay neighbors does not damage the liberty of conservative Christians. But the liberty of gay Americans is most certainly damaged by the conservative Christian activists’ claim that homosexuals are not deserving of the same respect and dignity due all citizens.
Matthew Shepherd’s rights were violated by two men, steeped in the climate of hate currently existing in our society. Statistics show that hate crimes legislation allows society to take a stand against hate and reduces violence. And yet, conservative Christian activists oppose hate crime laws. Steven Schwalm of the Family Research Council says they would turn the United States government into the “Orwellian thought police.”
This is disingenuous. Our legal system takes thoughts and motives into account. Otherwise we would often not be able to determine the difference between accidental death and murder. “Did Joe run over the elderly lady deliberately or because she walked into his path and he couldn’t stop?”
Thoughts and motives are also central to Christian concepts of sin and forgiveness. How else could conservative Christians have known that the adulterers Ronald and Nancy Reagan had been forgiven for their sins and that Mr. Reagan was, therefore, worthy of election as president of the United States?
I will defend to the death the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of all Americans, including the leaders and membership of the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. Sadly, they refuse to grant these same rights to those with whom they disagree.
I will also fight to defend our constitution. I will never allow anyone to give the Bible, religious doctrine or any other religious document supremacy over the United States Constitution. To do otherwise would surely destroy our nation.
Geoff Staples is former chairman of the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Alliance for Young Adults and a contributing editor to the 1994 book, “Uncommon Heroes.” Send comments to: [email protected]

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