Gay people are humans. Bob Jones III needs to acknowledge this.

Gay people are humans. Bob Jones III needs to acknowledge this. March 24, 2015

Some commenters just don’t get why I am not happy with Bob Jones III’s slippery non-apology for saying gay people should be stoned.

Todd Ferrell comments:

Sometime I think the gay community wouldn’t know an apology if it slapped them in the face…what do you want…him on a cross. Our validity comes through Jesus Christ alone – not Bob Jones or anyone else. Let it go!

Yeah, let it go, gays! It’s not like anti-gay rhetoric has real-world effects or anything. It’s not as though 2013 saw a concerted effort to pass a law that would have made being gay a capital offence in Uganda (it’s now been softened just to a life sentence in prison). It’s not as though a California lawyer has just tabled a bill to kill ‘Sodomites’ in the state. Jones wasn’t behind those bills, but he did use his platform to make such ideas seem more acceptable.

Some human beings holding a sign. (Image public domain, author unknown)
Some human beings holding a sign. (Image public domain, author unknown)

In the USA, rates of attempted suicide and suicidal ideation for young LGBT people are disproportionately high, as are hate crimes against gay people. In 2012, the FBI recorded 1,318 hate crimes based on anti-sexual orientation bias. In 2013, it was 1,402, and we know those statistics are underestimates, because they are only for reported crimes where a bias was identified. NCAVP statistics put the number of violence crimes against LGBT people at 2,001 for 2013. In 2012 and 2013, there were 25 and 18 anti-LGBTQ homicides respectively in the US alone.

Gay people are actually dying because of bigotry. I believe Bob Jones III when he says this isn’t what he wants, but it’s a lot easier to carry out hate crimes on someone you don’t see as human. BJIII’s discussion of gay people has never talked about them as real people. He refers to them as “homosexuals” and “sinners”, never using that vital word “people” that acknowledges these are fellow humans. Remember that when he made his “stone the gays” comment, he had been visiting the White House to use his platform and interest to see that gay people were excluded from civil rights legislation. Civil rights are rights all people share. He was literally denying gay people their full rights as citizens, and thereby denying they were fully human.

 

Look, young gay people kill themselves at a tragic rate. You know what makes them much more likely to attempt suicide? Having parents who don’t accept them. Given BJIII’s platform and influence—including, indirectly, the huge numbers of pastors and preachers that attended the university under his rule—just think of the number of teenagers that have grown up more likely to die because of his preaching. In fact, no, don’t think about them in the abstract. Go and read their stories. Let the fact that these are actual people stare you in the face.

Jones still doesn’t acknowledge the full humanity of gay people in his apology. In his entire statement, BJIII never once refers directly to gay people. In his apology, he doesn’t even recognise them as worth mentioning specifically. He refers obliquely to ‘sinners’, a group that undoubtedly includes gay people, but he never talks about the gay community and the harm he has personally done them. When you have wronged a person or a group of people, you address your apology directly to them, and you show some awareness of exactly how you have wronged them and what effect it has had. You need to demonstrate that you get it.

He should have said gay people are humans, and although I believe they are wrong, they still have rights as citizens. He should have noted that gay teens commit suicide in part because of a society filled with anti-gay rhetoric, he should have recognised that he’d contributed to that. He should have said that two LGBT per month die in the USA because of hate crimes against them, and this needs to stop. He should have said his religion requires him to show love to everyone. He could have said all of that without backtracking on any of his theology.

Would that have been good enough for me? No. I won’t be happy until he acknowledges that being gay is no sin. But it would be a good start. There will always be people who disagree with the way we choose to live our lives, but as long we are not deprived civil rights, it’s possible for us to coexist peacefully and live fulfilling lives. No one’s asking him to march at Pride. We’re just asking him to treat people like people.

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