One of the stranger charges that Religious Right leaders have repeatedly leveled against the LGBT equality movement is that somehow gay rights activists are in alliance with militant Islamists because both want to destroy Western civilization. Right-wing commentator Walid Shoebat said last year that Islamists in the Middle East are trying to create an anti-Christian tyranny that will lead to “homosexual rights” because “that’s how tyrannies work.”
The ludicrous smear was made again at this past weekend’s Road to Majority conference, organized by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America. Anti-gay activist Matt Barber, an associate dean at Liberty University’s law school, charged that an “Islamo-Progressive axis of evil” has declared war on Christ and Christians.
After the Orlando nightclub shooting, the charge was made again by Alex Jones, the conspiracy-theory-promoting radio host with whom Donald Trump is in a mutual admiration society. Jones said on his Monday broadcast that LGBT leaders and radical Islamists are working together because “they’re a bunch of perverts, they want access to our kids.”
The accusation that gay rights activists are making common cause with radical Islamists makes no sense. LGBT equality activists are increasingly taking a global view of their human rights struggle, and are keenly aware of the treatment of LGBT people under regimes that enforce a repressive, fundamentalist forms of Islam, as well as Islamic State militants’ brutal killings of people charged with being homosexual. That’s why LGBT activists have organized against the inclusion of countries like Brunei and Malaysia in trade deals. It’s why they’ve been sounding the alarm about a wave of homophobic rhetoric from political and religious leaders in Indonesia. It’s why they’re urging European countries to be aware of the particular vulnerabilities facing LGBT refugees from Syria and Iraq.
The truth is that the people working closely with repressive Islamic regimes are not equality advocates but Religious Right organizations and their allies in the Vatican. Recently, a group of anti-gay and anti-abortion organizations organized a “high-level” event at the United Nations with representatives of the Group of Friends of the Family (GoFF), a collection of 25 countries created last year to “reaffirm that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”
American activist Austin Ruse and his organization C-Fam work hard to keep reproductive rights and recognition of LGBT human rights out of international documents and agreements, work for which he often relies on the Vatican and Muslim-majority countries. Ruse organized the recent UN gathering, at which he praised Sudan and Saudi Arabia for having “saved” UN documents from language social conservatives don’t like. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom calls Saudi Arabia “uniquely repressive” when it comes to religious freedom and says Sudan’s government “represses and marginalizes the country’s minority Christian community.” One of the speakers was representing Iran, which the Commission recently accused of “seeking to ‘eradicate’ the country’s Baha’is.”
Joining that freedom-loving group at the United Nations were anti-gay activists who routinely portray LGBT Americans as a threat to religious liberty, including Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council and anti-gay pastor and activist Jim Garlow.
There is no evidence whatsoever that LGBT equality advocates are in league with violent Islamists, with whom they have little in common. But there is plenty of evidence, like the recent UN conference, that Religious Right groups are willing and eager to partner even with Christian-persecuting regimes in order to resist legal recognition and protection for LGBT human rights. A few years ago, Mission America’s Linda Harvey sided with Islamist extremists in Pakistan who protested the US embassy for hosting an LGBT pride event. Cal Thomas has suggested legal marriage equality is a worse threat to America than “fundamentalist Muslims.”
Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association radio host whose show is a platform for bigotries of all kinds, was quick to send a nasty tweet after the Orlando shootings: “Barack ‘Identity Politics’ Obama and his dilemma: Florida victims where [sic] homosexuals, but perpetrator was Muslim.”
That idiotic tweet encapsulates the mindless falsehood at the heart of all this: that somehow the Obama administration, gay-rights activists, and progressives generally are sympathetic to the aims of jihadist groups. Is it all because Obama won’t say a few magic words that the Right has fixated on? Is it because the far Right has equated an unwillingness to smear all Muslims as terrorists-in-waiting as a form of political correctness and even treason?
There is no semblance of reality to these charges, but of course in today’s right wing that means nothing. It certainly doesn’t dampen zealots’ intensity.
Ted Cruz, unlike most Republican officials, actually referred specifically to the LGBT victims of the Orlando massacre, but unfortunately it was only to use them as a prop in his effort to smear Democrats by suggesting that they have not had the courage to stand up to “an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians.”
As Right Wing Watch’s Brian Tashman and MSNBC’s Steve Benen were quick to point out, Cruz and two of his fellow Republican presidential candidates chose to attend an event organized by, and share the stage with, Kevin Swanson, a pastor who had publicly and repeatedly said that the Bible calls for the death penalty for gays and lesbians.