On Tolerance, Religious Freedom, and “Ain’t No Homos Gonna Make It To Heaven”

It is generally true, as the indignant members of Greensburg, Indiana’s Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church say, that what they include in their church’s services is nobody’s business, and the fact that the congregation loudly applauded the horrific spectacle of a 3-year-old boy singing the hate anthem, “Ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven!”would have never bothered a soul if it hadn’t been videorecorded and placed on YouTube. At this point, however, that no longer matters. The cat is out of the bag, the horse has left the barn and the beans are spilled, and now millions of Americans know that this church teaches hate, indoctrinates young and vulnerable children with its poison, and sows the seeds of prejudice and the active deprivation of American citizens of their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Since millions of people know this now, a critical number of them will go out of their way to make life in this country a living hell for members of that church and the church itself by demonstrating at every turn that we don’t want churches like that in America, or people like that in America. They aren’t good for society, they cause positive harm without any compensating benefits, and they need to change their ways or suffer the consequences. And to that I say: Good. Go to it.

The church members have, they say, been the targets of death threats, and that isn’t good, or right, and it has to stop. But the church’s self-righteous protests that their right of religious practice and belief is being infringed upon are garbage, and should be treated accordingly. Our government can’t outlaw a congregation cheering a 3-year old who denigrates gays, but our society can reject it, and the culture can spit it out like bad milk. Not only can it, but it should, for this is how cultures enforce ethical standards. A church and its members who foster conduct like children singing “Ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven!” during services are violating cultural norms, and need to be told so in every civil, legal and unpleasant way possible until the conduct stops, just as Wanetta Gibson, the Girl Who Cried Rape (and wanted to keep the money she got by doing so) deserves to be shown how much vicious, life-wrecking sociopaths are appreciated in this country. Religious freedom has never been absolute. We have let churches know that female circumcision, polygamy, animal sacrifice, racial discrimination, child brides and other practices of extreme religions will not be allowed to continue, because they are alien and destructive to core American values. So are kiddie renderings of “Ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven!”

The flaccid extolling of tolerance as a universal good by many in the public square is ignorant and almost always hypocritical. Tolerance advocates almost never are serious about tolerance, but only tolerance of conduct and beliefs that don’t bug them as much as they bug the people who are intolerant. We don’t have to be tolerant of people who refuse to bathe, or who shout obscenities in public, or who are cruel; there is no virtue in being tolerant of life-styles that are irresponsible, subject children to harm and burden others. Tolerance of people being different from us is part of what America is, but no culture can remain healthy if it gives a green light to harmful behavior.

I have always attempted to be as fair as possible to those who sincerely believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God, even though that belief has caused untold misery through the ages, even though it is logically and practically unsupportable, and even though one of my heroes, Clarence Darrow, eviscerated the concept decisively a hundred years ago. I know people often are stuck with what they were raised to believe for life, and thus I have been resolute about not attributing malice to literal readers of the Bible when they oppose gay marriage, for example. They are not bad people; indeed, many of them are quite wonderful people, but they are scarred by a bad religious belief, and need to be helped and persuaded, but not hated. This episode, however, is beginning to persuade me that I have been too tolerant.

The designation of gays as perverts, sinners and societal pariahs is archaic and without rational justification. As such, it is time, indeed past time, for the practice, in church or out of it, to be treated like the other culturally unacceptable religious practices and beliefs I mentioned earlier. Indoctrinating a child into such ideas in 21st Century America qualifies as child abuse, no less than KKK parents teaching their children that the white race is superior, or Joe Kennedy Sr. teaching his sons that women are sex toys to be used and disrespected. Gays are not a blight on the United States, but a blessing. Without them we would be poorer, dumber, less inspired, less entertained, sadder and uglier. Without them my own life would be infinitely bleaker, since my many gay friends and colleagues through the years have played key roles in almost every aspect of my life, and it is absurd and wrong that even now, I can’t thank them by name in a blog post.

I am not religious, but I am also not gay. I have people I respect and care about in both camps, and I have tried very hard to be open-minded and fair on their crucial point of  disagreement. Cheering a child who is being taught to hate gays is a deal-breaker, however. It exposes what Rich Santorum, perhaps our most prominent gay-basher, refers to as hating the sin but not the sinner as the seductive deceit that it is. “Homo” is a slur, and cheering the initiation of a toddler into a mind-set that often leads to violence and bullying is only slightly less despicable than cheering a rape. Places of worship like the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church give God a bad name; they make the country less safe, fair and loving, and they should not and must not be tolerated. The culture needs to do its work, which is to make it as clear as a mountain lake that hate and bigotry aren’t excused by religious doctrine, not when they warp young minds and place good citizens at risk.

So let’s be thoroughly intolerant of “Ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven!,”the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church, and any church like it. It is our civic duty, and the right thing to do.


Pointer: Fark

Facts: TMZ


Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

45 thoughts on “On Tolerance, Religious Freedom, and “Ain’t No Homos Gonna Make It To Heaven”

  1. Dang if these churches don’t pop out of the woodwork! Let’s shove “em back in. I would guess,and I think I would be right,that this churches men also keep their boots firmly planted on their women’s necks. These attitudes tend to go hand in hand. If this little boy grows up and beats a gay to death and spends his life in prison the patents can blame themselves.

  2. I agree completely. Maybe we should also show people that religious rules that other people subscribe to about drawing someone in particular don’t apply in America… maybe…?

  3. We have let churches know that female circumcision, polygamy, animal sacrifice, racial discrimination, child brides and other practices of extreme religions will not be allowed to continue, because they are alien and destructive to core American values

    I wonder what the Founding Fathers thought of same-sex sodomy, and how different it is from their thoughts on polygamy.

      • Who cares? They were wrong and ignorant about a lot of things. As we would have been, if we had lived in 1776. Imagine what Thomas, John, and Ben would have learned in 220 years! Assuming they would still hold the same views about blacks, women, gays, class, labor and many other issues is an insult to the greatest intellects who ever walked our land.

          • But you do know that the presumed infallibility of the Founders is regularly invoked to justify ignoring two centuries of experience and knowledge, right? I’ll “calm down” when people stop taking Michele Bachmann seriously.

            • “But you do know that the presumed infallibility of the Founders is regularly invoked to justify ignoring two centuries of experience and knowledge, right?”
              Yes,that’s why I said modern American values. The ones opposed to slavery,etc.

              • Of course, the Founding Fathers did not have an opinion on gay people, because they did not make such a distinction. ndeed, the concept of sexual orientation itself did not exist until the late 19th century. See J. Katz, The Invention of Heterosexuality 10 (1995); J. D’Emilio & E. Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America 121 (2d ed. 1997) (“The modern terms homosexuality and heterosexuality do not apply to an era that had not yet articulated these distinctions“), cited in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 at
                568-569 (2003)

                They opposed the conduct, not the person.

                  • The Founders, as Christians, saw no need gto address something that was so manifestly evil and contrary to decent human relations. Nor did they directly address murder and rape. They DID address treason in the Constitution (Article 4) as that is a secular crime.

                    • Strict ones, too. They remained largely in force across the country until a corrupted federal court system started off (in 2003, I think) by striking down Texas’ long standing law on sodomy. Typical of the ideological idocies of our time, particularly with the AIDS epidemic still in force.

        • The “marriages” of George Reynolds was also illegal.

          The core American values which polygamy opposes was summarized in Supreme Court decisions.

          “For certainly no legislation can be supposed more wholesome and
          necessary in the founding of a free, self-governing commonwealth, fit
          to take rank as one of the coordinate states of the Union, than that
          which seeks to establish it on the basis of the idea of the family, as
          consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one
          woman in the holy estate of matrimony
          ; the sure foundation of all that
          is stable and noble in our civilization; the best guarantee of that
          reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in
          social and political improvement. ”

          Polygamy was “contrary to
          the spirit of Christianity, and of the civilization which Christianity
          has produced in the western world.”

          Mormon Church v. United States, 136 U.S. 1 (1890)
          Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333 at 344, 345 (1890), quoting Murphy v. Ramsey, 114 U.S. 15 at 45 (1885)

  4. There must be a million churches in America. Some are denominational, some are independent. Some are organized top to bottom, some aren’t. Some are sober… and a few definitely are not. Guess which ones get the publicity? My biggest objection to this group is their using a little boy as a wind-up doll. No matter what the message or intent, no good can come of exploiting children in such a manner. By doing so, these people put themselves in the equivalent of a sleazy Hollywood sound stage.

    • I read the comments on Jack’s link and sure enough they are making blanket statements against all Christians as if this foolishness is the status quo.
      “this is true Christianity at its finest! ”
      “Good job Christians for making Christopher Hitchens right about how religion poisons everything.”
      ‘and xians wonder why so many people cant stand their religion.”

        • I didn’t think you were trying to slime all Christians in your comments, Jack, although I appreciate the motivation of Karla’s remarks. When allegedly Christian churches stoop to such tactics- tactics that have more in common with those of whom they claim to oppose- then it’s the duty of other Christians to point this out. As I’ve often said, it IS the duty of Christians to take a stand against manifest immorality. BUT… we must judge our own conduct first. We are our brothers’ keeper.

          • I didn’t think Jack was sliming us all either,Steven. If I gave that impression I didn’t mean to. These bad apples spoil the bunch in some people’s eyes.It is important that we let folks know that we don’t share the disgusting views. The Bible says speak the truth in love and you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. Not that non-Christians are flies but you get the picture.

            • The problem is that the bad apples are the reasoning that’s common to both these churches and more “Christian” churches. Some churches have been obviously poisoned, while others don’t show outward symptoms that are nearly as bad.

              • I’d like to believe there are good people in some churches but not having made the rounds to all the churches in America I wouldn’t know. Those of us Christians who do see this type of behavior have a duty to speak out against it whether or not we will be believed as sincere. I left a church that left a bad taste in my mouth when they began degrading all Muslims and referring too them as “towel heads”? or some such. I’m told if I find the perfect church I ought not join because it will no longer be perfect. All in all people are people Christian or not. Some are better than others. I do not understand bigots though,especially among Christians.

                    • Jack and Steven got to you didn’t they? Oh well,I still appreciate your comment. I try not to be a bad person. You have a strongly held position and I’m not going to say you’re a bad person for it. All I really know about you is your political views and position on religion. You feel strongly about these but that doesn’t make up the whole of who you are. I like you. I’ve said it before. I don’t dislike you or reject you or think your a bad person because you disagree with me.I’d like to say in defense of Steven that I don’t believe he is against homosexuals,just the lifestyle. For me,if someone isn’t a Christian they aren’t required to live like one. Of course,I would prefer they were Christians. 🙂

                    • I consider you a good person as your ethical calculations normally take you places that I agree with. Not all the time, but it seems a significant amount of the important times. Also, you’re willing to rethink your (granted, non-Jesus) conclusions when contrary evidence is provided. That’s something that has to be celebrated, especially in Christians.

                      I’m not sure Steven can be defensed. He’s against homosexual sex, homosexuals committing to other homosexuals, and homosexual forming stable family units. Using the phrase “homosexual lifestyle” implies that homosexuals are behaving in a way different from heterosexuals, instead of both sides running the full gamut of lifestyles.

              • I believe we would have widely divergent opinions on what constitutes a “poisoned” church, TGT. What I find interesting is that, given your previous pro-atheistic sentiments, you’d regard any as unpoisoned!

                • I think you missed my point. I actually regard all churches as poisoned by faith. It’s just that some churches behave relatively normally and ethically despite the poison, while others have been driven clearly insane.

                  I believe that you, meanwhile, only see the clearly insane churches as poisoned.

              • I think we’d have widely divergent opinions on what constitutes a “poisoned” church, TGT. What I find interesting is that, given your previous pro-atheistic sentiments, you’d consider any church unpoisoned!

  5. (1) RE FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND FREEDOM OF RELIGION: The rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion have never yet included a right to be free from criticism.

    • RE THIS PARTICULAR CHURCH’S VILE EXPLOITATION OF CHILDISH INNOCENCE: Christianity has a few great teachings and a million bad teacherrs. Q.E.D. (Quod Est Demonstrandum).

  6. (3) RE MY FUNNY FRIEND: I used to sing in a choir with a woman (lesbian) who sometimes wore to rehearsals a sweatshirt imprinted with this motto: “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.”

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