Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Osteen Cannot Mask His Homophobia on ABC’s “The View”

Houston, Texas – Joel Osteen met his match on ABC Television’s The View as he tried to peddle his brand of “soft-homophobia” to the nation.  The Advocate reports that Joy Behar took Osteen to task for denigrating lesbians and gay men as “not God’s best,”  a statement he made on the program last year.  Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, a megachurch boasting an average weekly attendance of 43,500 and a national television outreach, responded to Whoopi Goldberg that like God, he loved “everybody,” but while some of his friends were gay (“the nicest people in the world”), he couldn’t agree that God did the right thing creating people with a homosexual orientation (a remark he struggled to take back later in the broadcast).  Osteen claimed a single biblical message on homosexuality, and when pressed by Joy Behar, classed gays and lesbians with “drunkards” and “people on drugs.”  When Osteen was asked about his position on whether fellow megachurch pastor Jim Swilley, founder of the Conyers, Georgia Church in the Now, should remain as leader of the church, Osteen retreated into his anti-gay theology.  Swilley, married twice to women and the father of four children, came out as a gay man recently in response to the rash of LGBTQ teen suicides, confessing that he could no longer remain in the closet while so many gay youth were dying.  The death by bullycide of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman, particularly affected Swilley, who says he knew he was gay since youth, but tried to live as a heterosexual person.  As reported in thespreadit.com, Swilley said of his sexual orientation, “At a certain point, you are who you are.”  Osteen said that scripture would prohibit a gay man from pastoring a church (though the Bible never mentions the subject of pastoral leadership and homosexuality).  Still, Osteen labored to convince the women on The View that his church was welcoming to gays.  Asked again about his inflammatory contention that homosexuality “is not God’s best,” he said to co-host Barbara Walters, “I should finish that sentence. I should make it clear. I don’t think it’s God’s best for your life. I don’t think it’s not God’s best making us.”  Joy Behar pointed out that Osteen, who above all wanted to come across on national television as a nice person, was left with “a conundrum”: either God created homosexual people good (Genesis says that God pronounces all creation “good”), or God made a mistake by creating people as “less than God’s best.”  Osteen hesitated to comment about the conundrum his soft brand of heterosexism and homophobia poses for church leaders who truly want gays and lesbians to attend their churches and contribute their money, but who disapprove of their existence as God created them to be.  While less overt than many Christianist anti-gay positions, Osteen’s form of bias is perhaps the most insidious in American life today.  While maintaining a smooth, pleasing public persona, such soft anti-gay prejudice feeds the internalized homophobia of LGBTQ people who yearn for church blessings, and grants a green light to homophobic exclusion from circles of “normalcy” and from church leadership positions (which are the true test of any church’s feelings toward LGBTQ people).  Osteen further claims a simplistic “Bible-based” set of anti-gay teachings that plays well to the mob, which serious biblical scholars have debunked for decades.  Osteen claimed in an exit interview that he “loved” being on The View, that he had “a great time.”  The success of his appearance will be determined, to paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln a bit, by whether a charlatan can, indeed, “fool all of the people all of the time.”

November 17, 2010 Posted by | Church in the Now, gay men, gay teens, Georgia, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Internalized homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ suicide, Media Issues, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, soft homophobia, Texas, The View | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Conversion of a Cop: How Matt Shepard’s Murder Convinced a Policeman to Change

Sheriff Dave O'Malley (News 5 photo)

Cleveland, Ohio – In a startlingly frank address to police and federal agents, Sheriff Dave O’Malley challenged law enforcement officers to change their anti-gay attitudes towards hate crimes victims.  O’Malley, who was Chief of Police of Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998 when University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was murdered, confessed he harbored serious homophobic feelings against LGBTQ people at one time, feelings that changed as a consequence of what he learned in the course of his investigation into the hate crime that took Shepard’s life.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that O’Malley admitted to telling gay jokes and having serious prejudice against queer folk before the infamous murder of the 21-year-old gay man by two local Laramie men.  Speaking to a packed house of 250  law men and women, prosecuting attorneys, and federal agents in Cleveland on November 15, O’Malley said that back in 1998, “I was fully homophobic. Mean-spirited. ‘Faggot’ came out of my mouth as easily as ‘I love you’ to my children.”  The gruesome nature of the attack on Matthew Shepard, solely because he was gay, by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson shocked the hard-bitten Wyoming lawman.  Shepard suffered “injuries like I had never seen before,” O’Malley told the rapt audience at what has come to be known in Ohio as the annual “hate crimes conference,” sponsored by the Northern District of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the local branch of the FBI.  He also saw the anguish of Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, as they had to face the worst thing that ever could happen to a child–the brutal killing of their son because of homophobia.  Now, O’Malley says he thinks of the Shepards every time he hugs his own son, thankful for the life of his child, but sorrowing for the senseless loss they suffered.  Matthew Shepard’s murder shocked the conscience of the nation in 1998, leading to the eventual passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by the United States Congress in 2009.  McKinney and Henderson were convicted of the murder, and are serving life sentences.  Through the years, there have been various attempts to rewrite the story of Matthew Shepard’s murder, including an exposé by ABC News 20/20 that suggested “new evidence”–that young Shepard was killed inadvertently in a drug purchase gone sour, rather than as an anti-gay hate crime.  O’Malley rejects the 20/20 thesis, and from first-hand investigative experience declares that the chief motive for the killing was prejudice against Shepard because he was gay.  WEWS News 5, the local ABC affiliate, reports O’Malley urged law enforcement officers to set aside their prejudices against LGBTQ people, remembering that all people are fully human and have human rights.  The chief way to combat hate crimes of all kinds is to change the hearts and minds of investigators and prosecutors, O’Malley told the crowd; and then the effort must be made to stop the purveyors of hate. “If somebody could cure the hate-teachers, you could make a dent” in the problem, said O’Malley.  Now O’Malley is Sheriff of Albany County, where Laramie is the county seat.  Federal hate crimes law has become one of his top concerns, he explained to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  “Why is this legislation important?” O’Malley asked. “Because there are places in our country where, if you’re queer, you deserve what you get. If you happen to be gay, we may not investigate as well. We may not prosecute. I’m hoping that stops.”  Attendees say that because of O’Malley’s powerful, graphic speech, they will have to re-examine their attitudes toward minorities like LGBTQ people.  Sheriff O’Malley changed from a homophobe to an advocate for human rights for all people.  That would be the ultimate good outcome from the outrageous murder of a young gay man whose only offense was living as the person he truly was.

November 17, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, FBI, gay men, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard, Matthew Shepard Act, Ohio, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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