In the aftermath of a cluster of gay teen suicides, there has been a great deal of commentary and discussion in the media, both LGBT and mainstream, about bullying and its destructiveness.
A number of bloggers and commentators have skirted around the issue without addressing the force that is the underlying force behind all of the homophobia and bullying: religious belief. And in particular, conservative Christian religious belief which has come to hold special rights in what is supposed to be a secular society and a governmental system that grants no special privileges to any particular religious denomination or dogma.
These special rights take many forms ranging from prayers opening public meetings where invoking the name of Christ is allowed no matter who in the public is offended to laws that enshrine conservative Christian beliefs in the civil laws. Such laws include, but are not limited to Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and/or laws that continue to protect LGBT citizens from forms of discrimination prohibited by state and federal law when the targets of discrimination are literally everyone else in America except LGBT citizens.
The principal proponents of anti-gay bullying - whether or not they have the honesty to admit it - are conservative religious leaders such as Pope Benedict who has described gays as "intrinsically disordered" toward "an objective moral evil," Richard Land and Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Convention. And, of course, professional Christians such as Maggie Gallagher, Tony Perkins and down low pastor Eddie Long who enrich themselves in large part by peddling anti-gay hatred.
Jeremy Hooper has challenged their role in the "culture wars," but in my view these individuals and their organizations and institutions border on accessories to murder and need to be called out as such.
The constant anti-gay drum beat that these individuals and organizations disseminate is damaging in two ways: (1) it sends a message that anti-gay bigotry and bullying and other forms of anti-gay abuse are totally acceptable, and (2) it tells gay youth - and older gays as well - that they are damaged garbage unacceptable to the larger society. When one hears this message routinely and witnesses even the President of the United States and a strong plurality in the U.S. Senate lacking the integrity and resolve to end legalized discrimination and prejudice such as that embodied in DADT, the emotional and psychological damage to the targeted group can be lethal. Indeed, suicide comes to appear to be an attractive option.
Believe me, I know of what I speak as one who has had two serious suicide attempts driven largely by the brutalization I experienced from a prejudiced legal system.
Sadly, most courts - far too many politicians - lack the courage and respect for the U.S. Constitution to end the special rights given to anti-gay religious beliefs. A few courts have, however, recognized that Christianist religious beliefs should not shape the civil laws. One such court was the Iowa Supreme Court in Varnum v. Brien, No. 07-1499, filed April 3, 2009, where that Court recognized that the underlying animus against homosexuals in general and in the facts before the Court in Varnum - gay marriage - is based on religion. The Iowa Supreme Court stated in relevant part as follows:
While unexpressed, religious sentiment most likely motivates many, if not most, opponents of same-sex civil marriage and perhaps even shapes the views of those people who may accept gay and lesbian unions but find the notion of same-sex marriage unsettling. . . . Consequently, we address the religious undercurrent propelling the same-sex marriage debate as a means to fully explain our rationale for rejecting the dual-gender requirement of the marriage statute.
State government can have no religious views, either directly or indirectly, expressed through its legislation.... This proposition is the essence of the separation of church and state. As a result, civil marriage must be judged under our constitutional standards of equal protection and not under religious doctrines or the religious views of individuals. This approach does not disrespect or denigrate the religious views of many Iowans who may strongly believe in marriage as a dual-gender union, but considers, as we must, only the constitutional rights of all people, as expressed by the promise of equal protection for all.
We in the LGBT community and the larger society can dance all around the issue of bullying, but in the context of anti-gay bullying, we will never solve the problem until we take on the driving force behind the phenomenon head on: religious bigotry and the improper enshrining of such bigotry in the nation's laws be it in the form of DADT or the deliberate exclusion of non-discrimination protections to LGBT citizens whether it be on the employment front, housing and accommodations or other everyday issues. The deference to religious persecution and bigotry must end and those who refuse to support Constitutional liberties for all citizens must be condemned without hesitation. Christianits can hold their toxic beliefs but it os far past time that they be excised from the nation's civil laws.
When looked at from this perspective, as a nation, the United States must decide whether or not it will live up to the promises of the Constitution granting all citizens religious freedom and barring religious tests or not. If Barack Obama and others lack the spine to demand that the Constitution be made paramount, then this nation becomes in many ways little more than a hypocritical farce. We condemn Islamic extremists and their effort to impose their warped religious beliefs on all, yet we allow our homer grown equivalents to do precisely what we claim to condemn. Meanwhile, expect the suicide deaths to continue. There is truly no way to end homophobia and anti-gay bullying/bigotry without taking on toxic forms of religious belief head on and that includes condemning Christianists as a clear and present danger to to constitutional government. Politely dancing around the subject cannot continue. The death toll is rising and will continue until this elephant in the room is confronted.