Congrats to Jason Collins
— leroy butler (@leap36) April 29, 2013
Yeah, I’m not going to leave this alone. On Tuesday, I wrote about getting involved in a Twitter dust-up after criticizing ESPN basketball analyst Chris Broussard for saying that Jason Collins, an NBA player who came out on Monday, is “walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.” My point was, if you’re a bigot, you can’t hide behind religion to justify your bigotry.
Then, as if to prove my point, Think Progress reported Wednesday that a church in Wisconsin rescinded an invitation to former Green Bay Packers defensive back LeRoy Butler to speak at an up-coming event because Butler tweeted: “Congrats to Jason Collins.” Butler, however, stood firm. Via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Butler was told the church would cancel his presentation unless he removed the tweet, apologized and asked for God’s forgiveness.
“This is what bothers me the most. They said, ‘If you ask for forgiveness and remove the tweet and you say something to the effect that you don’t congratulate (Collins), then we’ll let you do the engagement and get the speaker’s fee, and I said I’m not doing that,” Butler said Wednesday. “Every gay and lesbian person will say ‘You know, LeRoy doesn’t speak up for the weak or the silenced. He doesn’t stand for anything as a man and he did it for money.’ Why would you ask me to reduce my integrity like that?”
The worst part of the story? The church had invited Butler to give an anti-bullying speech:
Butler said he pointed out to the church’s pastor that the church’s attempt to force him to back down was an example of the kind of treatment he had planned to talk about at the church.
“This is a form of bullying, what you’re doing. You’re trying to get me to do something I don’t want to do,” Butler said. “He disagreed, and I said, ‘We agree to disagree,’ and he said ‘No, I’m right and you’re wrong.’ ”
In the meantime, the church apparently apologized to Butler … not because the church or its pastor was wrong, but because they were relieved he never identified the church by name.
Welp. As the kids say.
This is actually quite a bit worse than Chris Broussard’s statements on ESPN, which, although bigoted, were nothing more or less than an expression of his personal opinion. In this instance, a church which apparently shares Broussard’s homophobia missed out on an opportunity to ameliorate the harm that type of bigotry causes. The church could have used the dispute as an opportunity to say that regardless of its views on homosexuality, bullying is never appropriate under any circumstances. Our gay friends are subject to a lot more than just casual expressions of personal opinions; they are subject to vicious attacks – verbal, physical, emotional, and psychological – on a regular basis, almost all of it cloaked in religiosity or phony morality. So when a church has the opportunity to preach a message of peace, to denounce bullying in all its forms, I would think its pastor would feel a special obligation to do so.
Instead, by canceling Butler’s speech merely because he expressed support for Jason Collins, the church is tacitly approving anti-gay bullying.
Even if you believe, wrongly, that being gay is a “sin,” whatever happened to Hate the sin, love the sinner? This church’s credo appears to be, Hate the sin, be utterly indifferent to the suffering of the sinners.