In the past few weeks, the shocking number of suicides by gay teenagers has sparked a serious national discussion about the root causes of anti-gay harassment and bullying. Across the country, parents, school officials, legislators, religious leaders, and others are recognizing that young people are deeply harmed by the message that being gay is sinful and wrong. For the first time, many voices are calling for accountability from groups and public figures who misuse religion to justify anti-gay bigotry.
Not surprisingly, those who have made careers of promoting anti-gay views are fighting back. Last week, Tony Perkins, the director of the Family Research Council, attacked those who "lay blame at the feet of conservative Christians who teach that homosexual conduct is wrong." In an guest voices column for On Faith, Perkins cynically denied any connection between the harassment of gay youth and the belief that gay people are sinful and disordered. According to Perkins, all responsibility must be placed on the bully, and not on religious teachings that condemn homosexuality as a threat to society. Incredibly, Perkins claimed that if gay youth commit suicide, it is because they "recognize intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal," not because of rejection by family, friends, and religious leaders.
Perkin's distortion of scientific research and callous disregard for the harm caused by his anti-gay views have been widely condemned, and rightly so. And yet the views he expressed are shared by millions of Americans of integrity and good will who genuinely love and care for their gay children and family members. For decades, anti-gay religious leaders have taught that homosexuality is not an innate aspect of a person's identity, but a sinful choice to engage in immoral and abnormal conduct. Many people of faith have been deeply influenced by those teachings and have internalized them with little thought or reflection.
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Mitchell Gold is co-founder of renowned home furnishings brand Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, and founder of Faith in America, a 501 C-3 non profit whose mission is to educate about the harm caused to LGBT Americans by religion based bigotry; and in 2008, published a book entitled CRISIS: 40 Personal Stories Revealing The Personal, Social and Religious Pain And Trauma Of Growing Up Gay In America.