Biblical Bombast: Religious Right Uses Harsh Fundamentalism To Fight Marriage Equality

Theology is no basis for civil law in a nation that separates religion and government.

When the Family Research Council (FRC) and other Religious Right groups advocate against marriage equality in the courts and in the public square, they usually base their argument on bogus studies and other more-or-less secular rationales. But behind the scenes with their own crowd, they turn to a harsh fundamentalist reading of the Bible as their basis.

Recently, a group called Minnesota Pastors for Marriage, which is fighting a gay marriage bill under consideration by Minnesota lawmakers, posted a document on its website called “Stand For Marriage Sermon Starter.”

The “sermon starter” outlines the “evidence” against same-sex marriage courtesy of FRC Vice President for Church Ministries Kenyn Cureton, and it suggests some rhetoric that is quite different from the Religious Right talking points intended for mass consumption. Cureton and the FRC are hoping that pastors will use these points during sermons delivered on April 7 as part of “Stand for Marriage Sunday.”

Much of Cureton’s manifesto focuses on the Bible, particularly Leviticus. He notes that Leviticus 18:22 says “You are not to sleep with a man as with a woman; it is detestable.” He also quotes Leviticus 20:13a: “If a man sleeps with a man as with a woman, they have both committed an abomination…”

He also quotes from Genesis: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

That’s all pretty tired stuff, but Cureton doesn’t stop there. He said the goal of gays and lesbians is “domination.” Cureton says that “while homosexuals represent a little over 3% of the total population, many have become very vocal, well organized, well funded and highly motivated.” He goes on to say that they “will not stop until they win over our children and our convicting voice is silenced. There is a destructive program.”

Cureton even played the Nazi card, saying marriage equality advocates who say homosexuality is not a choice are guilty of practicing “Joseph Goebel’s [sic] Nazi philosophy or propaganda.”

Cureton and Company are free to hold these views, of course. But theology is no basis for civil law in a nation that separates religion and government, and we’ve yet to see any legitimate arguments that support a ban on same-sex marriage. That’s why Cureton is turning to the Bible – it’s all he has.

Comparing people who fight for civil rights to Nazis probably isn’t the best way to make a point, either. Fortunately it’s not working.

While the FRC and its allies are quite firmly dug in against same-sex marriage, it seems their own children don’t quite feel the same way. Not long ago, a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 44 percent of evangelical Christians between the ages of 18 and 29 say gays and lesbians should be allowed to wed.

Even the students at Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University don’t seem to be speaking out in defense of so-called “traditional marriage.” In a piece for New York Magazine, Kevin Roose said that he has seen virtually nothing about same-sex marriage from Liberty this week despite the oral arguments in the two Supreme Court cases over marriage equality.

Roose, who spent a semester under cover at Liberty in 2007, reported that even though Liberty has a campus group called “Masquerade” that attempts to “cure” men who think they might be gay, and the school has used a text called Myths Behind the Homosexual Agenda, he found almost no homophobic activity on social media.

“I logged on to social-media sites to see what I assumed would be mass concern,” Roose wrote. “But I found almost nothing. No long, rambling stemwinders about ‘Adam and Steve.’ No Twitter quotes from Leviticus or C.S. Lewis. I looked on the personal Facebook pages of campus pastors, faculty members, and even Jerry Falwell Jr. — the college’s chancellor and heir to Falwell Sr.’s political legacy — and found almost no evidence that one of Liberty’s core political values was being debated on a national stage.”    

Roose suggested that Liberty’s students are becoming more progressive, even finding a few who said they support marriage equality. That’s bad news for the Religious Right.

All of this gives a sense that Religious Right strategists are becoming increasingly desperate in their attempts to advance their agenda. And when it comes to same-sex marriage, it seems only a matter of time before it’s recognized by the federal government.

But until everyone can marry legally in this country, the Religious Right is going to keep cherry-picking Bible verses to justify discriminatory laws. We know equality is at stake here, so we can’t and we won’t allow those motivated by exclusionary theology to have their way.

I also have a message for Dr. Cureton: when hyperbolically comparing people to deceased evil masterminds, you could at least spell the names of those evil masterminds correctly. It’s “Goebbels.”