At this point we've all heard Tony Perkins say some jaw-dropping things, and we all know that the Family Research Council is one of the most hostile groups working against LGBT rights today. But still, the decision to give the organization's annual top honor, the Watchman Award, to North Carolina pastor Ron Baity seemed clumsy and ill-advised, even for FRC.
Yet there he was, last Thursday afternoon. Tony Perkins was lauding one of the only people on the entire Commentator Accountability Project (GLAAD CAP) roster whose rhetoric is more extreme than his own. Tony thanked Baity for his years of service in the Tar Heel state, including his role in passing the recent marriage amendment. Tony, one of cable TV's favorite anti-gay voices, praised Baity as an all-around good man and a good Christian, fit to receive plaudits, plaques, and the enhanced punditry profile that comes from being adorned an award winner by one of America's top anti-gay groups.
So who is Ron Baity? For those not instantly familiar, he's a guy who has said of gay relations, "I don't think even maggots do that." He's a guy who's admitted he wants to "save" gay people so they will "quit being homos." He's a guy who once asked of the overturning of laws that criminalize being gay: "What are we gonna do next, turn all the murderers loose?" Ron Baity says our society was smarter when we prosecuted gay people, and that the gay community is signing America's "death warrant." He's also someone who, unfortunately, was often quoted by the mainstream media in the run-up to NC's vote to ban marriage without any of this critical context.
And now? This very same Mr. Baity is also FRC's reigning king of pastoral outreach.
[*Above text reads "There is much lucent fruit today filled with wormholes and rotten cores. Externally, it appears to be pleasant to the taste, but upon close inspection is found to be full of putrefaction. Nowhere is this process more fully recognized than in the warped, infested, twisted, illusive imagery of the depraved gray matter of the homosexual community."]
To give some insight into what this award means: last year's winner was Bishop Harry Jackson, whose profile has certainly increased in the time since FRC anointed him. In terms of socially conservative connections, this is not some small potatoes outfit. FRC is an organization with access to many key social conservatives, in politics and in the media. Though not surprising, it was still troubling to supporters of LGBT equality that the anti-gay movement appears to be trying to lift Baity up to a national platform.
And we're not alone. This move was equally troubling to a couple of organizations who advocate against us, yet who still know an act of deep extremism when they see it.
On Friday, in a column for the Baptist Press news site headlined "Southern Baptists draw distance from harsh anti-gay rhetoric, yet hold to convictions," Southern Baptist leaders took the unusual opportunity to separate their church's own advocacy from that of Ron Baity (among others). It's a very rare move for the Southern Baptist Convention, whose voices typically avoid such dissension. But here in a month where violently anti-gay Baptist voices like Sean Harris and Charles Worley keep popping up, SBC felt a need to draw a line between "culture war" and the kind of rhetoric employed by Harris, Worley, and now Baity.
Then on Tuesday of this week, it happened again. Exodus International, the largest group pushing so-called "ex-gay" therapy, issued a strong rebuke of FRC and Perkins for honoring Baity in the way that they did. President Alan Chambers "denounced the Family Research Council’s choice," saying that “It’s time conservative Christians who claim biblical principles such as loving their enemies and neighbors, and considering the welfare of others first, to speak swiftly and strongly against this type of action.” Chambers went on to say, “For too long we’ve stayed silent and allowed our brothers and sisters to tip that hat toward angry and abusive rhetoric," adding, "It’s a terrible witness for Christ, and clear hypocrisy to a watching world.” (See the full press release here)
It seems that for these two fellow anti-LGBT groups, FRC's choice is not only indefensible, but actually worthy of public outcry.
We started GLAAD CAP with the intent of giving the mainstream media the information it needed to hold anti-LGBT voices accountable for the things they have put on the record. Now it seems they are being held accountable by their own allies in the anti-gay movement.
By honoring Ron Baity, FRC and Tony Perkins showed how far and deep they are willing to go in order to foment anti-gay fervor in this country. By chastising this decision, Exodus and the SBC show that even some of those who oppose LGBT equality are now starting to object to the obviously out-of-line (yet reliably common) anti-gay statements that many in the LGBT movement have been objecting to for years.