Gay 'Agenda' Not Even Close When It Comes to Religious Persecution

Religious extremist Bryan Fischer is like the professional anti-Semite whose entire existence is built around hating someone and then appealing to other haters in order to pay his salary. Fischer just hates gays instead -- though I often find anti-gay bigotry is often coupled with racism and anti-Semitism, with more than a dash of xenophobia.

Fischer, on his Two Minutes of Hate [note: satire] show, claimed "I firmly believe the homosexual agenda represents the greatest single threat to religious liberty we have EVER seen in the history of our existence as a nation."

It might be useful to remember what other threats to religious liberty have actually existed in the "history of our existence as a nation."

The Puritans fled to America, not because they weren't religiously free but because they felt they should be so "free" that they could impose their ultra piety on others by force. As the Puritan leader Richard Mather put it, they sought the freedom "to censure those who ought to be censured." By that, they meant Catholics, Quakers, Baptists and other Christians.

Rev. James Mayhew complained that the evil King of England had allowed sports on the Sabbath and "encouraged papists and popishly effected clergymen" instead of repressing them as the Puritans required.

The British monarch dared tell Puritans to stop killing Quakers. Puritans saw this as an infringement of their religious liberty, much as fundamentalists today believe that not being able to impose their beliefs on everyone is a violation of their (italics) religious liberty.

Anne Hutchinson started a Bible study, but the Puritans told her it was immoral for a woman to teach the Bible. She was imprisoned for her offense and the trauma caused her to miscarry -- something which the Puritans found delightful. She was banished from the colony as well.

Mary Dwyer was exiled for being a Quaker. When she later returned, the Puritans had her arrested. She and two other Quakers were sentenced to death, but her husband managed to get the governor to pardon her at the last minute. She was arrested a third time and ordered to renounce her religious beliefs. She refused and the Puritans had her executed.

These people couldn't even seek redress at the ballot box. Only members in good standing of the local Congregational Church of the Pilgrims were allowed to vote.

Other states weren't much better. Virginia was controlled by Anglicans who banned Puritan preachers, Catholics, Quakers and Jews. Thomas Jefferson noted, "If no execution [of Quakers] took place here, as did in New England, it was not owing to the moderation of the church, or spirit of the legislature... but to historical circumstances which have not been handed down to us."

Catholic Maryland allowed religious freedom for some Protestants, but had the death penalty if they denied things such as the Incarnation or the Trinity. Puritans from Virginia fled to Maryland for freedom and then once they had it helped Anglicans overthrow the government and strip Catholics of the rights that Catholics had granted them. The new Protestant regime made it a criminal offense to be a priest, punishable by a life sentence, stripped Catholics of the right to vote and said only Anglicans could hold office.

New York's constitution banned Catholics from holding public office until 1806! Joseph Smith may have been a charlatan and a fraud, but he certainly didn't have freedom to promote his theology. He was tarred and feathered by a mob in 1832. In 1838, Missouri's governor expelled Mormons from the state and in 1844 a mob executed Smith, insuring his sect would always see him as a martyr.

That same year, Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, was rocked by the "Bible Riots." Anti-Catholic Protestants claimed Catholics were involved in a plot to remove the Bible from government schools. Bible-believing Protestants rioted, attacking and destroying two Catholic churches and other buildings, including about 30 homes. A few days later they learned that a Catholic Church in Southwark was armed for protection so they attacked that church as well. Altogether 15 people were killed and another 50 injured.

In the 17th century in the American colonies there were an estimated one dozen Jews, but they were banned from practicing law, medicine and other professions. State laws imposed religious tests effectively banning them from voting or holding public office and such laws remained in place for many years. Rhode Island only repealed these laws in 1842, North Carolina in 1868 and New Hampshire in 1877.

During the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant issued an order expelling Jews from areas under his control, but Lincoln rescinded it. Grant did get away with a measure "that no Jews are to be permitted to travel on the road southward."

Much of the anti-immigration hysteria of early 1900s, leading to the restrictive laws we have now, was a reaction to the large number of Jewish immigrants, just as the anti-immigration campaigns of the 1800s were directed against Catholics. The regulations on immigration in the Johnson-Reed Act was worded in such a way that only individuals from specific areas could immigrate and it effectively cut off Jews for the most part. But it was intended to do that, just without explicitly saying so.

Now, keeping this small bit of American history in mind, reconsider the rant from Mr. Fischer: "I firmly believe the homosexual agenda represents the greatest single threat to religious liberty we have EVER seen in the history of our existence as a nation."

He's lost touch with reality, if ever had it. Nothing Fischer can point to in contemporary America comes remotely close to the religious intolerance of the past. None of these outbursts of intolerance were the result of some "gay agenda," but were the results of Christians persecuting one another, or when they weren't at each other's throats, ganging up on the Jews.