Rewarding Hate?

Family Research Council’s Award to Antigay Pastor Ron Baity Rewards Hate Speech

The conservative organization made a bad, un-Christian decision when it gave its highest pro-family award to hate-spewing Baptist pastor Ron Baity, says Kirsten Powers.

What do you think: would Jesus compare gay people to maggots or murderers?

Seems the Family Research Council, a leading social conservative organization with influence in the GOP and led by cable TV mainstay Tony Perkins, thinks he would.

A few weeks ago, at their annual Watchman on the Wall conference, which included a video message from Republican superstar Sen. Marco Rubio, the FRC gave a Baptist pastor named Ron Baity their highest “pro-family” award of the year. Yep, this is the person who gave a sermon to his church that compared being gay with being a murderer. He also said, “I can’t believe the perverseness of two men or two women wanting to slobber over each other … that’s worse than sick. I don’t even think maggots would do that.” He is on record longing for the days when “we had laws that would prosecute [the homosexual] lifestyle.” In a radio interview, he said accepting gay people would make society “more filthy” and said, “They cannot reproduce, so they recruit.”

Just like Jesus said. Oh, wait. Jesus actually said Christians should “love their enemies.” Baity and FRC have arrogantly overruled the Prince of Peace and attempted to pass off bigotry and hate speech about people with whom they disagree as the Lord’s work.

In another interview Baity claimed, “I never said I hate homosexuals … I want them to be saved. If they get saved they would quit being homos.” (Someone needs to let the good pastor know that people who love gay people generally don’t refer to them as “homos.”) Next he will be telling us how he loves “the colored people.”

FRC is not a fringe group. They are a mainstay of Washington conservative culture. Why would they honor someone who says such despicable things? At the awards ceremony, Tony Perkins said of the 2012 Watchman Award, “This award is given to a pastor who has demonstrated outstanding servant leadership for the heart and soul of America, but more importantly for the advancement of God’s Kingdom. It’s fitting we honor those who are faithfully working to engage our culture for Jesus Christ.”

If by “engage” he means “repel,” then Baity is their man. Perkins actually said, “It’s becoming harder and harder each year to give this award to just one pastor.” So, it wasn’t that they were hard up; this hatemonger was their first choice.

When I asked Focus on the Family—the influential pro-family evangelical organization—what they thought about all this, their president and CEO Jim Daly said in an email, “The Bible is very clear [that] our conversations should be full of grace, gentleness and respect. [T]hat doesn’t mean we back off of articulating God’s truth, but that we’re mindful to do so with Christ’s heart.”

So, Christian pastors comparing people to maggots is definitely out.

Focus’s vice president of communications, Gary Schneeberger, told me that Daly believes FRC should never have given an award to a person like Baity, and “if it were Focus on the Family we would ask to have the award returned.” When I reached out to Sen. Tom Coburn’s office for his reaction as a leading social conservative, his communications director told me Coburn agreed that FRC should revoke the reward because Baity’s rhetoric about gay people was not consistent with biblical principles. Requests for comments from former senator Rick Santorum’s office and the Romney campaign were not answered.

Schneeberger said, “It’s heartbreaking to hear this kind of rhetoric, because it doesn’t reflect the heart or character of Christ. Focus believes … it is possible to believe that God’s design for human sexuality is one man and one woman in the context of lifelong marriage. At the same time, we have to be able to articulate that based on another truth … God’s design is ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ I don’t see a lot of love in those statements.”

Richard Socarides, a long-time gay-rights advocate and former adviser to Bill Clinton, told me of Baity’s rants, “There is no justification for talking about anyone like this. This is the kind of hate speech that encourages actual physical violence. I’m sure the FRC does not want to encourage violence against anyone. If they didn’t know he made these comments, they should take back the award. If they did know he made them and gave him the award anyway, then they should reevaluate and reassess” what they stand for.

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In fact, Baity is a font of dehumanizing dogmatism. In his January 2012 newsletter, he wrote of the Bible's reference to "corrupt fruit": "Nowhere is this process more fully recognized than in the warped, infested, twisted, illusive imagery of the depraved gray matter of the homosexual community."

Even Exodus International, the nation's largest evangelical ex-gay group and no stranger to controversy itself, has condemned FRC for giving Baity this award. Alan Chambers, the head of Exodus told me, “They should take back the award. I reached out to Tony Perkins and I have heard nothing back. It’s time for the Christian community and leaders to realize we have got to do a better job. There is room for biblically held beliefs with regard to sexuality, but we need to change how we talk about them. Homosexuality is not bigger than other issues, but the church has made it the biggest issue.”

Indeed, it has. Baity and FRC are Exhibit A in this travesty. In another interview, Baity claimed that being gay “is the one sin in the Bible that causes God to act swiftly.” This is delusional—and an unsupportable biblical claim. Only in the minds of bigots does God punish homosexuality but withholds his wrath against the 95 percent of the same population that engages in heterosexual sex outside of marriage. Mr. Watchman on the Wall doesn’t seem very good at assessing risk or seeing what is right under his nose, and likely sitting in his church in large numbers (hint: heterosexual fornicators).

Chambers said, “Christians need to offer an open hand rather than a clenched fist. We have an angry and bitter gay-rights community today and it’s our fault. The church created it. Gay people feel unsafe. I grew up in those churches; I know why people feel that way. We have beaten these folks with the Bible and given other folks a pass and that’s not fair.”