The other cheek, not turned

So a man repeatedly beat his three-year-old son and shoved him into a box, which induced shaking, vomiting, and, eventually a coma. The boy died this January. The father is claiming that he beat the hell out of the kid in order to keep his son from becoming a “sissy” or going gay.

All of these facts I learned from this article by a reporter for PlanetOut, a repository of “gay and lesbian news.” The report explains that the father is attempting the “gay panic” defense. A spokesman for Equality Florida also explains that it isn’t likely to work, because “Juries in even the most conservative states reject gay panic as a defense for murder.”

Having read the same report that I did, Andrew Sullivan had the following comment:

“He didn’t want him to be a sissy,” Shelton Bostic, the defendant’s Bible-study friend, testified. Yep: the guy was in Bible study. And this is what he learned.

The urge to resort to invective is nearly overwhelming, but let me make a few points:

1) Interesting that juries in even the most conservative states — on which one would assume conservative Christians have a greater representation than elsewhere — are not likely to cut the father some slack. Why would that be? [Hint: it has to do with millstones -- ed.]

2) Sure, the man’s religous formation may have had something to do with the violence he visited on his son, but it might not have. We don’t have enough information from this report to make a determination one way or the other.

3) The fact that Andrew Sullivan is so prone to make these sorts of leaps — not as occasional lapses or mistakes but as as a matter of course — has led an awful lot of people to take him less seriously.

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  • Karen Bro

    I weep for this little boy. . . my heart breaks.

  • Erik Nelson

    I used to read Sullivan every day, but eventually it got to be too much. I really don’t know what happened. A few times, I even spoke with him via email about this sort of thing, and it was very clear that he was unwilling to listen. It’s too bad – I miss the old Sullivan.

    This is a horrible story, but I have to wonder about the whole homosexuality angle. I mean, the kid was three years old. And the father twenty-one. A mother who was allegedly neglectful. It seems more likely the father didn’t want to bear the responsibility, and came up with a lame defense for what seems like a history of abuse and, finally, murder.

  • C. Wingate

    Well, um, actually now that I think about it, I realize that my reading of Sullivan’s sarcasm isn’t the same as yours, Mr. Lott. You seem to be saying that Sullivan says this bible study taught the man to do this; I read it initially as saying that the man had learned nothing from this bible study. Maybe the message here is more about how you read Andrew Sullivan.

  • Brian lewis

    Leonard Pitts also wrote about this case recently from a more personal perspective:

  • Stephen A.

    The jury won’t cut this guy any slack. Fear of a three-year-old “turning gay” is ludicrous and beating is beating.

    On the ‘up’ side, this case will help reinforce bigoted stereotypes of religious conservatives. It will also make a great pitch letter to help raise money for extremist, Christian-hating gay political pressure groups.

  • Victor Morton

    Why are we even discussing this?

    The Sullivanites of the world may have a point (they probably do) in saying that moral opposition to homosexuality makes life difficult, in varying degrees, for teenagers or adults who are gay or perceived such.

    But even to think that a 3-year-old could be gay is just … deranged. For a mind to work that way, one must have long ago left a field of normal sanity where there could possibly a rational connection between a moral belief and the consequent reaction.

    On the other hand … maybe he got the idea that a pre-sexual child could be gay from places like this.

  • Fred

    It’s curious that someone as skilled as Sullivan would make this ambiguous statement. Was it intended?
    Conservative Christians are held to a higher standard. If the crime had been done by another
    it would have sadly been less dramatic.
    The pressure to see children as sexual beings at ever younger ages has its consequences.

  • Chris


    This is a horrible, sickening case, but just as a factual matter, there’s a fair amount of research that points to early “sissy” behaviour in boys (preferring girls as playmates, avoiding rough-and-tumble with other boys, etc.) as correlating with later homosexuality. So this is not necessarily a case sexualising young children, in the way, say, that a paedophile would sexualise them.

  • Meg Q

    Victor, gotta tell you, folks are *way* ahead of you on establishing the sexual identity of the young ‘uns. I just moved to Edmonton, Alberta last year (because of marriage), and a popular street poster for a while was a photo of an adorable, chubby-faced toddler with a legend like, “Why do you assume he’s straight???” Indeed. Gives a whole new meaning to the anthem of my ’70′s childhood, “Free To Be You And Me”. Obviously, the Enlightened Family is now supposed to raise children as if they might be either straight or gay (or transgendered, as well?), as though there is no “norm”. Perhaps Mr. Sullivan could tell us how to establish whether a two-year-old is homosexual or not. However, I fear this might bring back the ancient custom of exposure, among other things (which the nasty, evil Christian Church stamped out – but that’s for another day, I suppose).

  • Michael

    Okay, we’ve gone completely off-base, as only homosexuality can lead those on the right.

    Dad, fearing his child was “soft” and effeminate and thus, in his simple mind, gay, decides to kill his child. This isn’t about sexualizing children, or Andrew’s hang-ups, or anything else. It’s about a father–who Adnrew believes was influences by his church–who killed a child out of homophobia?

  • Stephen A.

    Meg Q. hits on a very interesting point with the exposure issue that I’ve been thinking about for a while.

    If it’s ever conclusively proven that homosexuality or inclination towards it is genetic in nature, would 100% of the “gay community” become pro-lifers OVER NIGHT to prevent the killing of future gay people? Very likely so.

    Of course, those on the Right who oppose all abortions may be forced to re-think THEIR views on abortion.

    How’s that for a seismic shift in the political landscape, and a new moral dilemma of epic proportions?

  • Rock

    This is just about too weird to talk about. I see just a couple of things that may not have been addressed. People do not choose their sexual orientation. Homosexuality is not for others to “cure.” If one could tell what a child could be, so what? We all have known from childhood when someone amongst us was sexually different, why is this news? Abusing anyone is wrong, abusing a three year old is just sickening. Because of this sort of stupidity, we become fuel for the fires railing against Christian morality, or the lack of therein.

    It is difficult, but I will pray for this man. Even harder is the prayer asking for forgiveness for the sin I continue on a daily basis that required that my first love die for me. What can we do so that this boy’s life will not be repeated? Blessings.

  • Bubbles

    Who the hell reads Randy Andy Sullivan anymore? Don’t we have better things to do with our time? The new Potter book is out.

  • http://getreligion Rock

    Great post bubbles!

  • Tom R

    He was trying to teach him how to fight,” the boy’s aunt, Shanita Powell, told the court. “He was concerned that the child might be gay.”

    Great reasoning. “Gays can’t/ won’t fight.” So why all the fuss about gays in the military then?

    Not that any of Paris’ logic computes. It sounds like he was only a neuron or two away from beating the kid to death because the boy was an Illuminatus or a shapeshifting alien.

    To Sullivan’s credit, he did give some coverage to the murder of Jesse Dirkhising ( dish_inc=archives/2001_03_18_dish_archive.html), which not many of the other “Canonisation of St Matthew Shephard” backers have deigned to do.


    I stopped taking Andy seriously around October of 2004, just around when he started taking candidate Kerry seriously.

  • Maureen

    Stephen A. said:
    “If it’s ever conclusively proven that homosexuality or inclination towards it is genetic in nature, would 100% of the “gay community” become pro-lifers OVER NIGHT to prevent the killing of future gay people? Very likely so.

    “Of course, those on the Right who oppose all abortions may be forced to re-think THEIR views on abortion.”
    Exsqueeze me? You really think that people who oppose chopping up babies would be okay with chopping up gay babies? Feeding Moloch a few pre-Carthaginians is okay if their sexual orientation is wrong?

    My eyes are rolling so hard right now that they have reached the back of my skull and are probably headed for Pago Pago. (Fortunately, I am a touch typist.)

    First, if I were genetically predisposed to stealing, or killing, or adultering, or doing any other of the seven deadlies, I would still have the free will to choose what to do with my genetic predisposition, same as I do with my handedness and my ability to roll my tongue.

    Second, you have a very odd idea of a good half of your fellow citizens. Go forth and find out what they really think and feel. Fred “Jesus has a millstone with my name on it” Phelps does not count.

  • Joe Perez

    Anyone who takes Andrew Sullivan less seriously because he won’t confirm their deeply held prejudices and bottomless ignorance deserves something better, you know, like GetReligion. Last week, Santorum sticks his foot in his mouth and GetReligion mocks Teddy Kennedy (?!), now a Christianist homophobe commits a terrible crime of child murder and Jeremy Lott mocks Andrew Sullivan. Pathetic.

  • Stephen A.

    Guess Maureen isn’t participating in the Sci Fi movie thread.

    Maureen, not all those who say they’re Republicans and who say they are against abortion are fanatically dedicated to the Cause. I’m sure some new “evidence” of genetic predisposition (true or not, that’s not the issue) would present a challenge to some who are borderline pro-lifers or those who are “kinda” pro-life, but don’t make it their prime issue. I know of several of these people in the local GOP committee.

    But yeah, those who make it Issue #1 aren’t going to change their minds overnight and say “kill ‘em all.” Be reasonable. That’s obviously not what I meant.

    But since many gays already believe with certainty the idea of Genetic Destiny for ‘gayness,’ I expect if a test was somehow devised, they WOULD all be very opposed to those who would wholesale abort those with the so-called ‘gene’.

    My example was hypothetical, and wasn’t meant to imply that a “gay gene” WILL be found. I’m unsure it will be and if it is, am unsure it will mean exactly what some will SAY that it means.

    As for the issue of free will, I didn’t get into that, because that’s not the issue, but I agree: Predisposition isn’t Destiny. But parents are aborting children RIGHT NOW if they are thought to have a birth defect.

    Geneticists say they will one day be able to predict (loosely) whether a child will be predisposed to a disease. Do you think this will be cause for abortions? Uh…YEAH. I suspect the ‘gay gene,’ if it exists, will, too. And that would have a strange political effect, as I outlined above.

  • Jeremy Lott

    Sullivan is the guy who used the death of this child to try to score polemical points. I find the fact that you can’t see that rather, well, pathetic.

  • Michael

    So, Jeremy, should we also dismiss everyone who used Terry Schiavo to score polemical points?

  • mcmlxix


    The difference between the two might just be in that a rose by any other name just doesn’t provide a handy sound-bite to reinforce prejudice. “Christians” is one such handy label, whereas “those-nameless-people-who-have-found-it-convenient-and-believe-that-it-is-good-to-kill-disabled-people” really is not.

  • Rod Blaine

    “Christianity Blamed For Encouraging Child-Murder”. Oh, that’s just rich.

    Can’t this guy’s lawyer just cite Roe v Wade as a complete exculpation? If not, why not? – As a matter of principle, I mean, not just arbitrary judicial line-drawing. Tell me why the reasons cited in Roe, Webster, Casey and Carhart for pre-natal infanticide at the whim of the female parent don’t extend to justifying post-natal infanticide at the whim of the male parent? Surely you’re not endorsing sex-discrimination?