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'President of a conservative Christian organization'

by Jeremy Hooper

I spent twenty-two years below the Mason-Dixon line, part of that time in a very small town. So trust me: I know from conservative Christians. My past, present, and Facebook friends list is filled with folks who identify that way. Some of these conservative Christians are pro-LGBT-equality, some are indifferent, some are against. But few of them, at least in my personal dealings, routinely use their voices or influence to frame LGBT people as some sort of evil scourge that will destroy both themselves and this nation.

Now consider Rev Ron Baity, de facto head of North Carolina's anti-marriage-equality movement. Here are just a handful of the aggressive, science-shunning, beyond the pale comments I could assemble:

Gays are embracing a "learned lifestyle," science be damned:

Gays aren't "normal":

Gays promoting "perversion" in schools:

Kids who join GLSEN clubs should "set down in the middle of next week" (a seeming play on the "knock into next week" phrase):

SOURCE: Marriage Sermon
[Berean Baptist Church]

The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trisexual, apparently) community wants to use their "lifestyles" to "recruit" folks towards the "urban renewal program" experienced by Sodom & Gomorrah, since the homosexuals' "pleasure in doing evil" is "the one sin in the Bible that causes God to act swiftly"

SOURCE: Take A Stand, 12/20/07

And there's this from Pastor Baity's monthly newsletter:

"Since they cannot produce they must recruit young people to their perverted, warped agenda. One cannot think of anything more nauseating, debased, lewd and immoral than recruiting precious young people into such shameful conduct."
Return America Newsletter, 1/2011 [ReturnAmerica.org]

Again, these are just a few of the comments I could assemble. Pastor Baity puts all of his sermons online, and there are scores more I could pore over (and will pore over if the NC marriage amendment advances).

But here's why I mention Baity, conservative Christianity, and hostile comments right now. Over the weekend, The News & Record of Greensboro, NC, ran an article on the state's marriage fight. And to writer Mark Binker's great credit, he did mention Rev. Baity's potential for rhetorical flourish:

Baity is unequivocal in his language, calling homosexuality an “error” and saying that failing to push back against gay marriage would open the door to other social ills.

“I said a long time ago that if we allow the fence down on the marriage issue, then there will come a day when things like pedophilia will be looked at with ease and become accepted,” he said.

Battle takes shape over gay marriage [News-Record]

These are the sorts of things that deserve mention in mainstream pieces about equality opponents. It's what we fight to get on the record in order to cut through the "protect marriage" code-wording.

Though where the whole thing continues to get muddied is in Baity's billing. The article lists him as "Rev. Ron Baity, president of Return America, a Winston-Salem-based conservative Christian organization that has led rallies in Raleigh on behalf of the amendment." That's his identity marker: "Conservative Christian" who holds rallies. Not anti-gay activist. Not anything that further fleshes out his stated hostilities. Baity's billing is limited to his religion, as if such harsh words and attitudes are par for the conservative Christian course.

This limited labeling of the opposition is something we have to be even more adamant about challenging. And it shouldn't just be LGBT activists, either. Faith communities, even conservative ones, should be very concerned about a world where a guy who says such aggressive things against his neighbor is identified with a simple "conservative Christian" label and the vast majority accept it as properly placed. Would a person who embraces sexism or racism based on his or her personal religious beliefs (as he or she could) be summed up in such a way? NO, of course not! And neither should a person who embraces extreme heterosexism/homo-hostility.

Let me reinforce that this isn't a criticism of this one journalist, who did manage to give more insight than we are used to. Instead, this is an attempt to get all of us who dedicate mental energy to these matters to think a little more about what these more outwardly antagonistic people are actually saying, where the motivation is coming from, why they see fit to cruelly stigmatize so many, how these words negatively impact the discourse, and who these voices are really representing. We change this debate by demanding its more accurate representation.

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