Kirk Cameron, the former teen star on the sitcom Growing Pains, has become a growing pain.
On CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight,” the anti-gay actor trashed LGBT Americans saying, “I think that it’s – it’s – it’s unnatural. I think that it’s – it’s detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”
There are those who think the incoherent ramblings of an entertainer should be ignored, but it is crucial to not allow such ignorance to go unchallenged. Christian fundamentalists too often make the most foolish, factually unsupported statements, and get a free pass by hiding behind their religion. Their argument essentially is: You should take what I say very seriously because I’m moral, but I should not be subject to harsh criticism for intolerant statements that I can’t back up because they are my personal beliefs.
Conservatives like Rick Santorum have it backwards when they whine that Christians (like Cameron) are not welcome in the public square. What they really seek is to dominate the public space by browbeating anyone who challenges their often-bizarre views. They seek to abuse democracy by passing anti-democratic laws – sometimes through referenda — to give their beliefs dominion in the public sphere, and turn those whom they suppress into second-class citizens.
No one is taking rights away from fundamentalists – but they certainly can’t say the same, as they continuously work to demonize, dehumanize, stigmatize, and discriminate against LGBT citizens. It is also increasingly obvious that if they had enough support, they would severely curtail women’s freedom and reproductive rights.
Christian fundamentalists are not the martyrs they often pretend to be. However, there is a group of people that actually suffers because the “moral” insults of people like Santorum and Cameron give the unkind and unbalanced license to justify hatred and violence.
A report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center in November 2010, analyzing FBI data from 1995 to 2008, found that LGBT people are 2.6 times more likely to be attacked than blacks; 4.4 times more likely than Muslims; 13.8 times more likely than Latinos; and 41.5 times more likely than whites.
On one hand, people like Cameron truly believe they have cultural influence, which is why they are compelled to speak out. When people attack the subjects of their dehumanization, however, such types throw up their hands and plead they had nothing to do with creating a hostile climate where LGBT people are maimed, mugged, and murdered.
But what does Cameron think happens in the real world when LGBT people – particularly vulnerable youth — are turned into social pariahs? In his convoluted mind, does he think school bullies aren’t influenced when he calls their preferred targets “unnatural or immoral?”
I agree with Santorum that it is critical that born again Christians take their beliefs into the public square – that way they can be squarely challenged. When Cameron makes the outlandish claim that homosexuality is unnatural, he should have to explain in great detail why it naturally occurs in so many animal species. If he thinks that apes, penguins, or giraffes need to read the Old Testament to straighten out, then let him say so. What is his evidence other than a couple of misquoted, badly butchered Bible verses?
Cameron should be repeatedly asked in media interviews to offer hard evidence backing his foolish assertion that being gay is “detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”
Which civilizations? Can he give us concrete examples of how the citizens of eight American states and the District of Columbia have been harmed by gay couples marrying? Can he show us how countries with marriage equality, such as Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, and Sweden have unraveled? Does he prefer morally pure anti-gay societies such as Uganda, Russia, and Iran?
Cameron defended himself by claiming he has gay friends (all homophobes seem to think they do): “I do not, however, believe that the right way to advance our views is to resort to name-calling and personal attacks, as some have done to me. I also believe that freedom of speech and freedom of religion go hand-in-hand in America,” whined Cameron.
Someone needs to explain to Cameron that when he makes offensive, inaccurate, and spiteful pronouncements about an entire group of people he knows nothing about, his attacks are very personal and he is engaging in the very name-calling he derides. He also must learn that when people debunk his outdated views, they are expressing their freedom of speech.
If people like Cameron don’t have evidence for their opinions, they have earned the right to be excoriated in the very public square they claim to want to be in so badly. Christian fundamentalists don’t deserve special rights and their beliefs should be put under the same microscope as everyone else’s. That is precisely is what defines the public square in America.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”