Fear and loathing in Jerusalem

By Jeffrey Montgomery

Originally published on Advocate.com April 03 2005 11:00 PM ET

Editor’s note: Plans for World Pride in August in Jerusalem—an international 10-day celebration of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality—have conservative religious leaders in the Middle East boiling over with fury. On Wednesday, March 30, a panel of high-ranking representatives of fundamentalist factions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam united for an unprecedented press conference to condemn the Jerusalem event and to demand that the government of Israel put a stop to it.The press conference, which made the front page of the The New York Times, turned into a harsh condemnation of both World Pride and GLBT people in general—one that bordered on a call for violence against World Pride participants.None of the pious participants in the press conference acknowledged that millions of followers and many prominent leaders in their respective faiths disagree with their virulent condemnation of GLBT people. One rabbi said the organizers of World Pride “are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable” and, nonsensically, that the event “hurts all religions,” the Times reported. A Muslim cleric, in a statement that could easily be read as a call to physical confrontation against World Pride participants, said, “We can’t permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty. This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem.”An American rabbi at the press conference called the festival “the spiritual rape of the Holy City” and quipped, “This is not the homo land, this is the Holy Land,” according to the Times.In the following editorial, Michigan gay activist Jeffrey Montgomery—who also works with InterPride, the international umbrella organization that’s organizing World Pride—responds to the religious leaders’ press conference.The time to demand that so-called religious leaders cease their relentless campaigns of hostility and antagonism toward people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is long overdue. If it wasn’t before, that time is clearly now.In the guise and under the cover of their religious affiliation, these people have been given far too much credibility and license to spread their bigotry, which puts all GLBT people at risk and vulnerable to physical attack and murder. Their fraud will bring about violence, and the blood will be on their hands.We call on all religious leaders to condemn the implicit call for violence against GLBT people issued March 30 in Jerusalem. Any religious people of good will and faith need to repudiate and distance themselves from the hateful and incendiary rhetoric spewed forth regarding the planned World Pride festival slated to take place in Jerusalem later this year.The statements made by those self-styled leaders are scandalous in their arrogance, and arrogance is condemned by almost all faiths. Who are these men, so self-professed as to claim the right to define religion in such a narrow, exclusive, and absolute way?Rabbi Yehuda Levin of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, for example, called the festival “the spiritual rape of the Holy City.” That metaphor should offend everyone who appreciates the horror and trauma of rape. It is also clear evidence of the motive behind these statements in Jerusalem: Rape justifies an extreme response against the perpetrator, including assault and murder—any swift and vengeful reaction is appropriate.The call sent out March 30 comes at a time of increasing animosity and campaigns to promote hatred of gays and lesbians as somehow justifiable in a religious context. We see examples of these campaigns everywhere in the world, instigated by several faith traditions and denominations. These campaigns are sickening, threatening, and dangerous.It is further saddening that the call for intolerance comes at a time and from a place of ongoing religion-inspired terror. The world is weary of violence and hatred. The world is tired of terrorists.Religious extremists and fanatics are among the most dangerous of all scoundrels and criminals. They act on their delusions, and their delusions are frequently nurtured and enabled by so-called leaders who irresponsibly and often knowingly incite their acolytes to carry out the treacherous and violent—but inevitable—result of their toxic direction and preaching.What those men in Jerusalem put in motion will lead to murder and mayhem.Spiritual and physical violence through the misappropriation of any of several gods and dogma must stop, must be confronted, and must be condemned by every person of good will and especially by those religious among us who are offended when such loathing is done in their name.