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By Larry Smith

Wednesday, March 24, 2010.


One is hard-pressed to discern what drives people like Lyall Bethel of the Coalition of Evangelical Pastors to become so obsessed with an imaginary plot to take over the world that he and others like to refer to as "the gay militant agenda".

This conspiracy theory is just as incredible as those variants of the 911 Truth movement which seek to lay the blame for the terror attacks in New York on Jews, who all stayed home from their jobs in the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001 to watch the destruction on TV.

One would expect that the multitude of social ills afflicting our small population would be enough to occupy any self-respecting religious leader from now until the second coming, without having to resort to punitive campaigns over non-issues like sex and gambling. But Bethel believes the so-called gay agenda is such a grave threat that he periodically submits pompous faux scholarship to the newspapers to "prove" his point.

"We will fight vigorously to defend this country from further infiltration," he wrote in a letter to the Tribune last week. Bethel is convinced we are at war, and the enemy are those vile homosexuals in our midst. He cites "studies" which claim that gays threaten public health, social order and the safety of our children - conclusions that are generally at odds with legitimate published research, not to mention everyday experience.

The claims that he presents include false, out of date and grossly misrepresented statistics that can be found almost verbatim on a multitude of neo nazi, white supremacist and extreme theocon websites.

Some people may not understand that the mere presence of references does not ensure the validity of an assertion. Statistics can easily be generated from faulty data, authors may have ulterior motives, and journals vary widely in their quality and their criteria for publication.

For instance, Bethel cites a document (Is Homosexuality Normal) written by "Dr E Fields of Marietta Georgia". No direct links to this source can be found online, but there are plenty of secondary references. It is apparently a pamphlet produced by a chiropractor named Dr Edward Fields, who has long been involved with neo-Nazi organisations in the United States. He is identified as editor of The Truth at Last, which describes itself as "America's premier white patriot newspaper".

Many of the most egregious claims cited by Bethel derive from papers written by Dr Paul Cameron, founder of the Colorado-based Family Research Institute. Cameron describes himself as a "researcher/clinician" and has spent the last 30 years trying to associate homosexuality with child sexual abuse and reduced life expectancy in order to prevent the extension of civil rights legislation to gays.
In 1983, the American Psychological Association expelled Cameron for non-cooperation with an ethics investigation. And position statements issued by the American Sociological Association and Canadian Psychological Association have condemned him for "consistently misrepresenting social science research".

As evidence of the gay militant agenda, Bethel points to the platform of the 1993 Gay Rights March on Washington DC, which (he says) calls for the legalisation of child sexual abuse. This document (http://www.qrd.org/qrd/events/mow/mow-full.platform) actually focuses on ending discrimination against gays "by state and federal governments including the military; and repeal of all...laws that criminalize private sexual expression between consenting adults."

But according to Bethel, civil rights should not apply to homosexuals, and any comparison with the African-American struggle is "shameful". He extends this argument in a gratuitous response to the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority's public consultation on development of a code of practice for local broadcasters.

This code will hopefully restrict material that could "incite hatred against or villify any person or group on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, sexual preference, age, religion or disability." But Bethel, through the Coalition of Evangelical Pastors, says "sexual preference" is not a legitimate category for protection, and worries - ironically - that the Coalition's views on homosexuality could be banned from the air waves.

That's rich coming from the ayotollahs, who want to set themselves up as censors and judges over the rest of us.

Bethel completes his letter to the Tribune with a smug reference to a weird fringe group called the North American Man and Boy Love Association, which is frequently parodied by comedian Jon Stewart. This is a classic red herring, as almost all gay rights groups are strongly opposed to NAMBLA, regarding rhetoric about "the sexual rights of youth" as a cover for pedophilia and child abuse. Many of NAMBLA’s members have been jailed for child molestation and trafficking in child pornography

Bethel's treatise boils down to this: Homosexuals live filthy, unhealthy, dangerous, and violent lives. They are vermin who prey on children. They are plotting to transform society in their image through brainwashing, recruitment and legalisation of all their nastiness. And the Tribune plays an active role in this sinister conspiracy by promoting homosexuality in the Bahamas "on a regular basis".

What can we say in response to such outlandish claims?

Well, it seems to me that we can disagree on issues like same-sex marriage (as opposed to civil union) or the degree of "affirmation for the homosexual lifestyle" without resorting to hate- and fear-mongering. After all, homosexuality isn't about subscribing to a belief system, and it's hard to see how any straight person could be converted. I would imagine that gays just want to be treated like everyone else. If that's an agenda, so be it.

Really, homosexuality is just not a big deal in the scheme of things. It never was, and it never will be. The only reason we keep making a big deal out of it is because some folks, for entirely irrational reasons, have decided that it is "sinful" and must be attacked at all costs.

Okay, so you can't argue in favour of homosexuality based on biblical injunctions, but by the same token neither can you argue against slavery. In fact, the Bible is completely cool with slavery, so long as you give the slaves a day off each week, and let them keep the gleanings from the fields.

And what about this biblical injunction, Pastor Bethel: "“thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”

Larry Smith writes a column called "Tough Call" every Wednesday for the Bahamas Nassau Tribune. A former reporter and editor, he now operates a communications agency in Nassau (www.bahamasmedia.com). He also blogs at Bahamapundit.


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