Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, and Kurt Vonnegut walk into a bar and get hammered trying to collectively write the penultimate dystopic novel.
At about five in the morning, after countless ideas, shots, and pitchers, one of them blurts out a horrific idea. It would probably be comparable to the new anti-gay law in Russia that has been front page news all over the world.
The law makes it illegal to equate straight and same-sex relationships. Advocacy of homosexuality is now weighted with fines of $3,000 for people and $3 million for groups and organizations (plus deportation for non-citizens). Additionally, anyone found guilty of “offending religious feelings” can be slapped with a three year jail sentence.
Russia has codified LGBT citizens as “less than” heterosexuals – rejecting a push that began under Gorbachev in the nineties to relax such laws, and returning to Stalin-era practices. The act has erupted into state sanctioned ugliness and “violent attacks on gays or ‘suspect gays’ are becoming commonplace” in a world power housing a population of 142 million.
The Guardian reported that Putin’s motivation was to “vastly boost the power of the Russian Orthodox church, a religious body that professes total allegiance to the state.”
4,000-plus miles west of Moscow, Alaska obviously has a better human rights record. But we have failed in much less drastic ways recognize full (or, in many cases, basic) equality. We’ve also had our fair share of overarching leaders who peddle backwards social legislation in the name of nationalism.
In the summer of 2009, I spent a lot of time sitting in Anchorage’s Loussac library during the Ordinance 64 hearings (an ill-fated LGBT nondiscrimination bill). I spoke with veterans of the equal rights movement in Anchorage, who were present during the last round of legislation in the seventies. They spoke of Jerry Prevo with a chilling reverence; a larger-than-life character with a far larger sway in politics than any private citizen should have.
When I first laid eyes on him, wandering into the back of the Assembly chambers with right-hand-man, Glenn Clary, I thought: “You mean the old guy?”
It was a younger man with wild eyes and a decade-defying soul patch that caught my attention. He darted around the chambers, greeting red-shirted opponents to the legislation, meeting with Anchorage Baptist Temple officials, and conversing with sympathetic assembly members. He looked like an evil muppet.
This was Alaska Family Council President Jim Minnery, a state-specific subdivision of the Family Research Council – the lobbying arm of James Dobson’s Colorado-based Focus on the Family.
By the end of 2009, Prevo’s congregation was waning and public opinion of the fire and brimstone preacher was tanking. The anti-gay crusader was all out of fight. His aging movement need a fresh face to re-brand their tired ideas.
Minnery became the go-to guy, always ready to supply reporters with a comment whenever something LGBT-related became newsworthy. The Anchorage Daily News gave him his own blog and conservative radio embraced him. In 2012, he served as the spokesperson for a group called “Protect Your Rights,” which opposed yet another anti-discrimination bill in Anchorage. More recently, he’s begun teaming up with major national players to influence the legislature, shifting focus from municipal to statewide politics.
So, I was surprised last week when it was Jerry, not Jim, making headlines against the gay.
A group of local Boy Scouts learned Tuesday they will no longer be allowed to use facilities at the Anchorage Baptist Temple…. Prevo believes allowing scouts to meet in the building is akin to an endorsement of homosexuality, he wrote in the email. He pointed to Leviticus 18:22 and 1 Corinthians 6:9, verses of the Bible commonly cited by Christian opponents of homosexuality.
Shaky theology aside (more on that HERE), this was a heavy cocktail of questionable policy and a public relations nightmare.
Prevo sent an email informing Mark Schneider that ABT would no longer host his son’s boy scout troop, telling KTUU that “allowing scouts to meet in the building is akin to an endorsement of homosexuality.”
In a cast of the tail wagging the dog, Prevo was only following through on Minnery’s charge:
For those who love Scouting and all that it has stood for in living memory, it is time to carefully read the [Boy Scouts’] entire resolution, consider how it is put into place, and ultimately determine whether they can or should remain in this iconic organization.
This was part of a June Alaska Family Council blast email. It was penned by Alaska Family Council board member Greg Schmidt, who warned readers about the “hyper-sexualization” of the boy scouts, and the threat posed by a “well-coached, militant activist, with an LGBT agenda….”
I think it’s important to remember we’re talking about boy scouts.
He went on to say the inclusive switch in policy embraced what he perceived to be a “secular ‘hook up’ culture [that] views sex as simply recreational: ‘friends with benefits’, affirming sex between anyone who consents, and ridding any ‘new life’ consequences as ‘a burden’ to be disposed of.
One more time: boy scouts.
A week prior, Minnery appealed to his followers to flood the Boy Scouts’ leadership board, asking that they speak for “those boys who will not depart from the principles of God, Flag, Country and Morality….”
Minnery has distributed several newsletters and blog posts over the summer objecting to LGBT rights. In a blog post sent out July 29, he took on marriage: “[Same-sex unions are] a deliberate, systematic alteration from a moral and legal state, instigated for the best possible rearing of children…. [Marriage] is devolving, not evolving.
In another, he echoed his belief that the presence of “a married mother and father” is an “essential need.” He described this as “natural marriage,” and announced with a literary slammed fist that “we MUST stand together now as defenders of natural marriage and prepare for the battle that will be waged in Alaska in the coming months.”
Few dots are left unconnected. Minnery believes we need to wage war against homosexuality in order to protect God, Country, our children, and our way of life. The only step left is the law calling for the purge and sanctioning violence.
America doesn’t run much risk of enacting anything akin to the totalitarian atrocity adopted last month in Russia. I’m thankful for the disparity between our two nations regarding such a law’s chances. But the identical justifications for discrimination, and the double standard for those advocating them, are greatly concerning. We don’t like Putin and vociferously object to his obscene, dangerous policy.
Minnery’s influence, on the other hand, has been rising. He’s been successfully cajoling state legislators while touting an anti-American, anti-Christian, completely falsified worldview.
News outlets still pursue him as if he’s ever, at any point, offered a factual argument against LGBT rights. Don’t believe me? Find me one fact; one instance where Minnery’s insane and debunked arguments to support discrimination hold up to scrutiny. Otherwise, let’s stop pretending his claims hold any more merit than Putin criminalizing the gay.
Jim Minnery’s vision for America looks a lot like Vladimir Putin’s Russia. That’s equal parts terrifying and offensive, and overtly hostile to both Christianity and republican governance.