It’s no secret that Republicans and the religious right would like the LGBT community to go away. Mike Pence famously signed a “religious freedom” law, removing protections from discrimination for LGBT in Indiana in 2015, and insinuated LGBT people would be the cause of societal collapse because the family was under attack. But he’s just espousing what he, as part of the religious right, believes.
The unholy union between right-wing politics and fundamentalist religion has gone on for decades. First they fought for segregation, and then against abortion and women’s reproductive rights in favor of male hierarchy. Eventually, they united to create and combat their perceived “gay agenda.”
Simultaneously, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, while the religious right created conversion therapy to “fix” the gays. By 1979, Jerry Falwell, along with political strategist, Paul Weyrich, created the Moral Majority. “The formation and growth of this movement can be mainly attributed to the conservative backlash against the many upheavals of the 1960s,” with abortion becoming the focal point by the late 1970s, says historian Doug Banwart.
AIDS, in the 1980s, added gasoline to a fire that was already raging and the religious right found a political companion in Ronald Reagan. The religious right and Republican Party were well on their way to creating the perfect political storm, uniting fearful believers with greedy corporate leaders for a single goal: create a society with rules that only benefit the super rich and the super religious.
Clearly, there have been many casualties along the way, primarily the middle class, the poor, and the fastest growing segment: minorities. But in the religious right’s political haste to categorize, control and eradicate those who don’t agree with or subscribe to their brand of theology, they have overlooked the fact that the LGBT community is - and always has been - part of their own group.
A long string of conversion therapy leaders have exited the religious right since the beginning of conversion therapy’s horrific legacy. Michael Bussee, who helped found Exodus in 1976, left the sect and denounced it three years later. Since then, once prominent ex-gay “rock stars,” such as John Paulk, John Smid, Darlene Bogle, along with a host of other former Exodus, International leaders and spokespersons, Randy Thomas, Yvette Cantu Schneider, the UK’s Jeremy Marks, have repudiated the movement, and reclaimed their gay identities.
And where would the church be without its musicians and music ministers? From Mary (Carter) Stevens-Pino, who wrote “For Those Tears I Died” (1969), to Ray Boltz “Thank you” (1988), to Vicky Beeching’s “The Wonder of the Cross” (2007), or the latest Christian singer to come out, Trey Pearson’s “Wake up! Wake up!” (2007), Christian music owes a debt of gratitude to LGBT’s contribution.
Instead, those who dare to stand in moral integrity, by truthfully acknowledging their sexual identities, are cast out of the fold. Vicky Beeching, upon her disclosure, said in an interview, “People are aware I have influence within the church so they say things like, ‘You’ve got the blood of a generation on your hands’ and various crazy things about [me] working with the devil, and hoping I’ll be hurt, injured, disabled; people saying it would be right for me to be taken out.”
One radical fundamentalist radio show host said of Trey Pearson’s disclosure, “Trey has made a tragic, destructive choice.” Like so many Christian right fundamentalists, responding with a façade of compassion, he went on to say, “…by God’s grace, you can and should ‘stay the course,’ and we are earnestly praying that you would.”
But it’s those quietly living in the pews that take the brunt of the religious right’s beatings. Sermons geared toward shaming members of their own congregations, fellow ministers, youth, and extended family members extol legalistic, fundamentalist theology with the sole purpose of chastising parishioners into hiding their realities. None of the religious right’s theology, ideology, or personal prejudices does anything to change the fact that some of their very own church members are gay.
Laws, which remove protections for employment and housing are usually supported by the religious right and passed by conservative Republicans. Callously, many of these leaders are well aware that their own sons, daughters, aunts, and uncles, or extended families and friends are part of the LGBT community. But as long as the consequences elude the leaders, and don’t disrupt their agenda for a cohesive, if not coerced, society of religious obedience, they have no qualm sacrificing their own in the name of God and country.