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IV. Bible-Thumping Death Dealers?
In the early days of AIDS in the 1980s, the hard left insisted “silence = death.” But then they added the idea that spoken opposition to homosexuality as a sin against God also equals death -- to either the beating of gays or their suicides. Catholics were “dealing death” when they refused to provide condoms for illicit sexual activity that led to AIDS. Reporters also asserted that the pro-life movement spawned the murder of abortionists and a kind of “terrorism” outside abortion clinics. The religious right has been blamed for encouraging a “climate” of violence by preaching from the Bible, no matter how kind and generous their rhetoric. .
“Gays and lesbians are beaten to death in the streets with increasing frequency — in part due to irrational fear of AIDS but also because hatemongers, from comedians to the worst of the Christian right, send the message that homosexuals have no value in our society....In the post-cold-war era, gays have been drafted to replace communists as the new menace to the American Way: We’re told gays corrupt youth and commandeer art and entertainment to win converts.”
— Dan Rather in The Nation, April 19, 1994.
“Then the fallout from the death of Matthew Shepard. The tragic beating of the college student in Wyoming has some activists in this country saying there is a climate of anti-gay hate that’s been fostered by a provocative advertising campaign by the political right in this country. We’re going to get into that debate after news and weather.”
— Today co-host Katie Couric opening the October 13, 1998 show.
“Even as friends of Matthew Shepard held a candlelight vigil in his honor, gay rights groups rushed to condemn the killing, portraying Shepard as a casualty of a new cultural war against gays and lesbians, a war declared this summer by a coalition of religious-right groups, including the Christian Coalition, which funded advertisements in major newspapers and commercials on TV promoting a campaign to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality.... The ads were controversial for portraying gays and lesbians as sinners who had made poor choices, despite the growing belief that homosexuality may be genetic.... Have the ads fostered a climate of anti-gay hate that leads to incidents like the killing of Matthew Shepard? Gay rights activists say the ads convey a message that gay people are defective.”
— NBC reporter David Gregory, later in the October 13, 1998 Today.
“The Christian Right per se and some particular members on Capitol Hill have helped inflame the air so that the air that these bad people breathed that night was filled, filled with the idea that somehow gays are different, and not only are they different in that difference, they’re bad and not only are they bad, they are evil and therefore evil can be destroyed. The next step to that to me, it’s a three-step process, and that ends in destruction. I don’t say that they were told to do that, they certainly weren’t part of any plan to do that, but again, what air are they breathing now? It’s the air filled with that hate....I mentioned Trent Lott, Jesse Helms and Dick Armey particularly. The Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council and the Concerned Women for America.”
— Deborah Mathis of Gannett News Service on who inspired the murder of Matthew Shepard, Oct. 17, 1998 Inside Washington.
“Let’s talk a little bit more about the right wing because I know that’s something you feel very strongly about. But this is actually not necessarily about the right wing, but perhaps a climate that some say has been established by religious zealots or Christian conservatives. There have been two recent incidents in the news I think that upset most people in this country, that is the dragging death of James Byrd, Jr. and the beating death of Matthew Shepard. I just would like you to reflect on whether you feel people in this country are increasingly intolerant, mean-spirited, etc., and what, if anything, can be done about that because a lot of people get very discouraged when they hear and see this kind of brutality taking place.”
— Today’s Katie Couric to former Texas Governor Ann Richards as she hosted a 92nd Street Y appearance in New York City on March 3, 1999 shown by C-SPAN April 3.
“Since September 11, the word ‘terrorist’ has come to mean someone who is radical, Islamic and foreign. But many believe we have as much to fear from a home-grown group of anti-abortion crusaders.”
— Reporter Jami Floyd on ABC’s 20/20, November 28, 2001.