We all must hang together...

...as Benjamin Franklin once said, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately. Antigay priests and ministers must not be the only religious figures with a say in gay rights: It’s time for pro-gay religious leaders and our secular allies to present a united front.



With the election of Bush to the presidency on November 2, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders need to take a long, hard, deep look at ourselves as a community and at the dark forces that are arrayed against us. We need to come together in new and powerful ways to counter the alliance presented by our enemies. And our religious leaders must be among the first to call for unity.The unification of American conservatism entities---fueled by the religious fervor of various denominations, especially the Roman Catholic Church---has paved the way for the unthinkable: The lines between church and state were not only blurred in this election, they were eliminated. In church after church, parish leaders were openly telling their followers whom not to vote for, and with impunity. While the names of the presidential candidates were not actually used in most churches---thus fulfilling the letter of federal law, which forbids tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or rejecting particular candidates---they didn’t have to be.The threat was simple: You can’t consider yourself to be a good [Catholic, Southern Baptist...fill in the denomination] if you vote for a candidate for public office who supports a woman’s right to choose, or equal rights for homosexuals, or stem cell research.In the Scranton, Pa., area on the Sunday before the election, Catholic priests in every parish read a 3 1/2-page letter from their bishop regarding whom not to vote for in the presidential race. Once again, though no candidate’s name was used, it was plain whom the bishop and the Vatican opposed.John Kerry was painted as a pro-abortion, pro-gay Catholic who ignores church teachings and as such should not receive the vote of any “good” Roman Catholic. The possibility of excommunication was even used as a threat against anyone who voted for Kerry, emanating from the Vatican department called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the successor to the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition. These churches skirted the law with razor-thin legality, and it worked. For the most part, the country’s religious-conservative segment voted the way its churches told them to vote.Early in the campaign, Jerry Falwell, that paragon of Christian virtue and love, formed a group of lawyers to go out and teach churches how to campaign in an effectively partisan manner while staying just inside of the law that forbids partisan campaigning by churches. Falwell has even established a school of law at his University of All Things Antiquated, which is intended to produce so-called Christian lawyers who will work against the tide of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. This is, of course, the same man who blamed the gay community, among others, for the September 11 attacks. Jimmy Swaggart, the allegedly reformed adulterer who recently said he would kill any gay man who looked at him the wrong way, was also active in pushing for Bush’s reelection.The church has fully entered the political arena, and it is there to stay. If those are the rules under which we all now play, religious leaders who favor tolerance and equality no longer need to fear speaking out in favor of the political values important to them.The other side certainly has not hesitated to cloak its agenda of exclusion in a deceptive shroud of faith. The White House effectively used homophobia and the specter of gay marriage to scare millions of Americans who say they’re concerned about “moral values”—into voting for an Administration responsible for a war that is wrong, a faltering economy that is bleeding jobs overseas, an environment that is getting sicker, a health care system out of control, a Social Security system in trouble, an incredible national deficit that will take a generation to correct, and a severe shortage of properly funded education programs for the poor.

Tags: Commentary