Equality Matters: Going Undercover At NOM’s Anti-Gay Student Conference Gives A Fascinating Glimpse Behind NOM’s Moderate Facade

When Carlos Maza, a gay activist who monitors the National Organization for Marriage, the “moderate” anti-gay marriage group (let’s face it, the ANTI-GAY HATE GROUP) went undercover to attend one of their weekend training sessions, he found himself connecting with another attendee in a surprising way.

Read the whole thing, it’s like a spy novel except with Leviticus-spouting Religious Right leaders trying to “turn” a roomful of impressionable college students, instead of Communist moles posing as tweed jacketed leather-patched college professors.

Yeah, it’s that complicated.

Also, take note of some interesting details:

  • Many of the college attendees were from either BYU or Arizona State
  • Most of the leaders were from the evangelical/fundamentalist/Biblical literalist end of the Protestant spectrum
  • These groups are normally suspicious of each other but they worked together to pass CA’s anti-gay (marriage)Prop 8
  • It’s not necessarily a good thing that the Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco helped to ram Prop 8 down gays’ throats.
  • Retiring Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson was involved in some kind of dialogue, curious about the reaction to him.
  • Someone who works for the Institute of Religion and Democracy was also there. They hate Bp. Gene.

Carlos attended the “It Takes A Family (To Raise A Village)” conference at the end of July, well before the Archbishop-Elect of San Francisco was arrested for drunk driving in San Diego, the same city where the conference was held. His election as Archbishop was announced with great joy and a little loathsomeness by one of the organizers while Carlos and other attendees were being bused to an event. Ugh.

In the empty lobby of a small hotel in San Diego, a conservative Mormon from Utah and a progressive gay activist from DC saw eye-to-eye on the overwhelming majority of “pro-family” and “pro-marriage” issues.

It was the kind of unholy alliance I never expected to form at an anti-gay conference.

Flying home the next morning, I thought about how small our differences had been all along. I’d spent the weekend thinking of myself as some kind of spy working behind “enemy lines,” assuming the worst about every person I met. I was terrified that I’d be discovered by the other attendees and felt certain that they’d turn on me the second they discovered who I was.

In reality, though, the “enemy lines” were a bit blurrier than I had imagined them to be. Most of the students who attended NOM’s ITAF conference weren’t anti-gay zealots; they’d decided to show up after hearing about the event from their professors, their churches, or their parents. Many of them, like the BYU student, were genuinely interested in preventing divorce and ensuring that married couples maintain healthy and lasting relationships. Few of them had ever even heard of the Ruth Institute before attending.

It seemed silly that I had spent all weekend feeling so embattled.

Then I remembered the Regnerus study – how NOM’s speakers had spent the weekend trying to depict gay parents as predatory towards their own children.

I remembered Gagnon’s speeches and NOM’s use of Christianity as a weapon to condemn LGBT people as unrepentant sinners.

And I remembered Leviticus.

The ideological divide between me and the BYU student may have been small, but NOM had spent the entire weekend trying to widen it by teaching her that gays and lesbians – including me – are unstable, dangerous, and unworthy of raising their own families. Despite the promise to focus on “marriage, not gayness,” ITAF had been a veritable crash course in demonizing LGBT people.

via EXCLUSIVE: Undercover At NOM’s Anti-Gay Student Conference | Equality Matters

Reactions are a little… mixed. I found this glowing account from St Paul’s Cathedral Blog (Episcopal Diocese of San Diego):

A fair amount of humor peppered the otherwise tense conversation. It was interesting to sit in the huge, warehouse-like sanctuary with my partner, Kathy, and to know that we were sitting right next to people who were opposed to gay marriage. Not a comfortable experience, but a good one, because it means that we can all be in one room together and discuss this hot topic without coming to blows.

Kudos to Skyline. Huge love and thanks to Bishop Robinson. My favorite picture is to the right! — Fearless Love:; Report From Skyline Church

But alas, tolerance is lacking in this official wrap-up (with slideshow) from the Ruth Institute blog:

Generally, the biblical voice is silenced or the event becomes so infused with allegations of “hate” that the arguments are no longer really heard. Sunday night was so different. Everything was heard and you could hear a pin drop. All the intelligence was on the biblical side; all the sentimentalism was on the gay side. Neither Rob nor Jennifer ever backed down… they made their points with great civility and lucidity. — A Conversation on the Definition of Marriage

Ah, ergh. I can only hope that the young people who had attended that weekend’s conferene were insufficiently indoctrinated to see it that way. The detail about praying over the facility to protect it from forces of conflict (which was somehow meant to keep the evil gay cooties at bay?) was kind of… weird and too much like “praying the gay away” to my mind.

I can’t really post this on the church blog; it’s too distracting and upsetting and political. And creepy! But I wanted to react to it, so here it is. UGH. To the National Organization for Marriage, and their education arm the Ruth Institute, that’s my reaction: UGH.

Your positions are not Christ-like, and you twist His words and say things He never said to support your position.

Here is everything Jesus Christ, the Son of God, said about homosexuality as it was understood in His time:

crickets

In my admittedly lacking Biblical knowledge, I do believe that Jesus said that the whole of the Law came down to just two things: love of God, and love of one’s neighbor. Well, one thing really: LOVE.

So that probably means that all that stuff in Leviticus about shellfish, mixing linen and wool, and killing gay people for LOVING EACH OTHER no longer applies. Because: LOVE.

And one last thing: This post is dedicated to the memory of John Thurman, who passed away after suffering a fall this week. His spouse Dave Fleer now must go on alone.

John never really recovered from a head injury received several years ago. He was badly beaten and left for dead in front of his home, in what was likely a hate crime. The assault was never solved, or even investigated to any degree by local police in Munster, Indiana.

That is the consequence of the HATE preached with sweet-sounding words behind closed doors by anti-gay groups like the “National Organization of Marriage.” Behind those doors, they admit that opposing marriage for gays polls a little better than opposing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for gays. They pass out handouts to young people emphasizing that gays should be killed, and “their blood shall be upon them.” As in, “you get a free pass for killing the gay neighbor, because it’s not really murder, God says it’s OK”

Like I said, UGH. Thanks to Carlos Maza’s courageous (and initially mischievous) undercover work, the cover is pulled back on NOM to reveal them as something unwholesome, and definitely not following the two greatest commandments.

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