Frank Turek

WFAE 90.7 FM will host a public conversation and forum tonight on Amendment One. Entitled “Defining Marriage,” the radio station says it hopes to host a “very meaningful dialogue” on the proposed constitutional amendment that would strip marriage rights from same-sex couples and prohibit civil unions and domestic partnerships for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

That “meaningful dialogue,” bit? Likely not possible, especially since they’ve invited extremist and anti-gay bully Frank Turek to represent the anti-gay side of the debate.

Turek is associated with radicals like Charlotte street preacher and convicted stalker Flip Benham and Dr. Michael Brown, whose use of violent and militant religious rhetoric I’ve well-documented. In fact, my first introduction to Turek was during a forum sponsored by Brown back in 2007 (there’s an in-depth review and commentary of that event, as well).

Turek and Brown recently debated North Carolina philanthropist and activist Mitchell Gold on Brown’s radio show. I commented on the debate and documented some of the conversation, which left me with the distinct impression that Turek is more bully than academic.

It’s quite disappointing that WFAE would bring in such a radical voice to represent the opposing viewpoint. Couldn’t they find a more appropriate and respectful voice? In reality, perhaps not. How “appropriate” and “respectful” can pro-amendment voices be when each seem to be connected to people like Brown, genocide-enabling radicals like Lou Engle and hate group leaders and white supremacists like Tony Perkins?

Mitchell Gold

Michael Brown

Frank Turek

Update (Jan. 31, 2012, 2:08 p.m.): As promised yesterday and this morn, my reflections on the Brown/Turek/Gold debate below.

Regular readers of InterstateQ.com, followers of my work at my prior gig at QNotes and those involved in LGBT advocacy and community work in Charlotte know all too well who Michael Brown is. The leading anti-gay activist in the Charlotte area, Brown has taken on several LGBT groups in the Queen City and LGBT equality initiatives across the country. I’ve interacted with him from time to time, and in 2009 compiled a lengthy special report on his use of  militant religious rhetoric.

Last Wednesday, Faith in America founder and North Carolina furniture entrepreneur Mitchell Gold engaged both Brown and his associate Frank Turek in a conversation on religion and LGBT equality on Brown’s “Line of Fire” radio show.

I’m just now catching up on the show, as I was in Baltimore last week for the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference.

So far, I’m not surprised. The same usual rhetoric, straw-man arguments and generalizations. Turek and Brown set the tone for the two hours from the get-go. Gold appears in the second hour to rebut some of their outlandish claims.

The nearly two-hour exchange on Wednesday can be listened to at Faith in America’s site.

Today, Michael Brown will host a question-and-answer show, partly discussing last week’s show. Gold’s Faith in America is encouraging people to call in and share their own views, offering affirming and compelling voices for equality.

From Faith in America:

You can help us speak to Brown’s audience. On Monday, January 31st, Michael Brown will continue the segment with calls from the audience. Since they were unable to execute that part of the show, given the heavy dialogue that occurred, they have decided to extend the segment. We encourage you to listen to the segment from yesterday and take a minute to call in on Monday … and be the voice of equality for their audience who otherwise does not hear our side on a daily basis. If you are unable to do so, you can also email the radio show at info@askdrbrown.org and share your thoughts. As always, we encourage you to visit our website for ways to be effective in your messaging.

You can listen to today’s Q&A show live, 2-4 p.m. Easter, online here. You can call into the show at 866-348 7884.

Be sure to stop back in on Tuesday morning for an update and some of my own takeaways from last week’s exchange and today’s Q&A show.

= = =

Update (Jan. 31, 2012, 2:08 p.m.): As I said yesterday, I had begun listening yesterday to Brown’s Jan. 25 show last week. I wasn’t surprised to hear Brown and Turek launch right into scare tactics. Why must LGBT people always be linked to HIV and AIDS?

Turek recounted:

I grew up next to a family and one of the young sons from this family got involved with homosexuality. He was the older brother of my best friend and he got involved in it and went into New York City and immersed himself in that lifestyle and we buried him at the age of 35, dead from AIDS. That was back in 1993 and I started seminary in 1993. I saw so many people seemed to just be misinformed on this issue. Christians who couldn’t articulate why homosexuality was a problem for people who engage in it, much less society.

I have no reason to doubt Turek’s personal story is true. The 1980s and early 1990s were a horrible time for LGBT people and, in particular, gay men. Many lost loved ones and friends. It’s telling, though, that Turek has somehow managed to take his one, personal experience with a gay man and generalize it to the entire gay community. What kind of leap in logic is that? One man dead = they must all be saved?

I don’t think so.

We all have personal experiences that shape our lives and our worldview, but, usually, people form more rational ideas as they explore and come to know others. Turek, it seems, has approached every LGBT person as sinful and sick, based entirely on his one life experience. It’s a shame he’s never gotten to know the many, many LGBT people who are living happy, healthy lives — people I’m sure could break his misinformed outlook if he’d give them a chance, approaching people with an open mind and open heart.

Brown and Turek spent the next good bit of the first hour discussing Turek’s dust up with Bank of America and Cisco. Turek had been a leadership coaching consultant with the Charlotte-based bank — that is, until a gay employee noticed Turek’s voluminous anti-LGBT advocacy and his book opposing same-sex marriage, “Correct, Not Politically Correct; How Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone.”

Brown and Turek chat:

Brown: It’s not even a book based on the bible says this, the bible says that…You write this book, the book gets out. You could write a book on Labrador retrievers mating school. You could write a book on how to play better cricket. People write books on everything. What does that have to do with Bank of America leadership talks?

Turek: It should having nothing to do with it. Others will say, “He’s a bigot. He’s a bigot because he doesn’t agree with us.” I always ask people who say you’re a bigot because you’re against homosexuality or same-sex marriage to define what you mean by bigotry. One guy said fear and intolerance. That isn’t bigotry. Bigotry is prejudging an issue having no evidence for it and even when you get new evidence you don’t change your mind, evidence that counters your views. That’s bigotry. It’s not bigotry to say a certain behavior is good or bad for society. That’s not bigotry; that’s commonsense wisdom if you’re right about the issue.

Turek should take his own advice and look at all the evidence around him. Sexual orientation isn’t a choice, isn’t unhealthy and isn’t sick or sinful. And, neither are LGBT people. What is unhealthy, sick and sinful are the ways in which LGBT people are treated each and every day by Turek, Brown and other people in their corner. Upholding discrimination against already-marginalized people is about as un-Christian as you can get.

Throughout the show, Turek and Brown ridicule LGBT people and their experiences with anti-LGBT discrimination.

At one point, Turek completely denies the existence and humanity of LGBT parents and families:

There’s no such thing. There’s no gay couple with a child. There may be two people, one of whom is the biological parent of the child. Let’s cut through all this and say what it is, okay? A gay couple who are looking after the child; one of them might be the biological parent, but they’re both not. I’m sorry. I had to say that.

Perhaps, Frank, this is just a perfect example of why Bank of America and Cisco wanted nothing to do with you. They didn’t discriminate against you because of your religious or political views, they wanted to cancel your contract because you’re disrespectful and dehumanizing. I’m guessing families with step-parents aren’t families in your eyes, either?

Later, Turek and Brown talk about the supposed long-term ill-effects of same-sex marriage, comparing them to the effects of no-fault divorce. Obviously, no-fault divorce mustn’t be that big of a deal. I’ve seen no mass effort to stop it. Instead, Turek, Brown and others are all foaming at the mouth to take away human and civil rights away from LGBT people. These issues aren’t about family; if they were, the religious right would be focusing on divorce, the one single family problem that causes more damage than almost any other internal family dynamic, save abuse or abandonment. Nope… they’d rather focus on the queers. Misguided much?

About the only bit of common sense I heard in the first hour came from Brown. Responding to a caller you said Christians should “love the sinner and hate the sin,” Brown said:

The thing that’s really important to be sensitized to is this: If we use the line, “love the sinner, hate the sin,” and we say that to someone who identifies as gay or lesbian, what they hear is, “You hate me.” What they’d say is this is not what I do, this is who I am.

Unfortunately, as much as Brown is willing to acknowledge the reality of LGBT people’s experiences, he isn’t willing to accept them as truth. Brown talks so much about reaching out to LGBT people “with love and respect,” but the very manner in which Brown approaches LGBT people is offensive and hostile to open conversation and understanding. You can’t be understanding, loving, respectful or come to reconciliation when you, to your core, view your conversation partner as sick and sinful.

In the second hour of the Jan. 25 program, Brown and Turek welcomed on Faith in America’s Mitchell Gold. The group’s executive director, Brent Childers, was also present in the studio. Brown introduced Gold and spoke briefly about the book he edited, “Youth in Crisis: 40 Stories on Why Religion-Based Bigotry Against Gay People Must End Now,” and to which I contributed an essay on my upbringing as a gay teen in a conservative, fundamentalist, independent Baptist church in the south.

Gold spoke passionately about North Carolina’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment, correctly describing it as the radical, over-reaching piece of legislation it is. But, Gold hit on a stronger, more salient and human element of the upcoming amendment debate and vote.

Gold said:

What bothers me most about the amendment, and I believe it was County Commissioner [Bill James] in Charlotte who said that this amendment really says gay people aren’t welcome. For a 14-year-old kid trying to understand their sexuality, to have an amendment in the public discourse in this big public discussion to have people saying gays are sinners and an abomination, that they are not entitled, that it’s not God’s plan to have it this way. I know from doing this book that these are devastating things. This is why kids jump off bridges. This is why kids hang themselves.

Despite Gold’s sincere attempt at honest, heartfelt conversation, Brown and Turek quickly pounced, throwing out straw-man arguments and red herrings meant to distract from rather than contribute to healthy dialogue. And, though Gold was attempting to discuss the health and well-being of LGBT young people, care to guess which issues Brown preferred come to the fore? Yup, you got it: Polygamy, pederasty and the supposed “sick” nature of LGBT people and the insinuation that being gay itself was causing youth to kill themselves — not that anti-LGBT hostility and societal prejudice was the root cause of such tragedies.

Brown’s inaccuracies on suicide quickly led into a discussion on the American Psychiatric Association (APA), its removal of homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973 and Brown’s far-right conspiracy theory that posits the belief that the APA is nothing more than a gay activist front group.

Brown and Turek attempted to use a 2001 study by Dr. Robert Spitzer, a retired psychologist who helped lead the 1973 push to de-list homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, as proof of the APA’s “agenda,” saying that Spitzer’s work had proven that LGBT people can change their sexual orientation.

Of course, that’s all lies. Spitzer himself said such change is rare, and admonished anti-LGBT advocates for using his research to support discrimination.

In the last half-hour of the show, Brown once again threw in the polygamy red herring, then accusing Gold of being selfish and bigoted because he didn’t want to recognize marriages between multiple partners. It’s something far-right religious folks never seem to get: The issue isn’t about polygamy. The amendment won’t affect polygamists in mass. It will make LGBT people de jure second-class citizens.

In the last quarter of the show, I think I was nearly astonished as I’ve ever been listening to Brown. It’s no secret that I abhor his use of violent and militant religious rhetoric, but I was absolutely floored at the arrogance Brown displayed toward Gold:

Brown: I don’t know much about furniture business and it would be quite arrogant for me to come and lecture you about the furniture business…

Gold: Are you suggesting it is arrogant for me to come and talk to you about scripture?

Brown: I’m suggesting that you have as little basis for your viewpoint in terms of being a student of the scripture to lecture me about it or to tell me to keep my heart open as opposed to saying to me, “Hey, 40 years walking with the Lord…you have a right to your convictions.” No, ultimately you’re telling me my convictions are harmful to other people and therefore there’s something wrong with my views.”

Wow. Here I thought humility was supposed to be a Christian virtue?And, yes, Brown, you are wrong and your convictions and statements are causing harm.

As the show closed, it came full circle and right back to painting LGBT people as sick and unhealthy: Suicides, higher STD and HIV rates, higher cancer rates and so on and so on in LGBT people. Folks like Brown and Turek, so blinded by their own bigotry and prejudice, will never see their own role in the continued plight of LGBT youth and adults. Just as other marginalized communities have faced health inequities, so to do LGBT people. Societal prejudice and institutionalized discrimination, which Brown and Turek advocate, make such matters worse, not better.

The show wrapped with some of the silliest arguments the right has ever come up with for opposing same-sex marriage. Turek sounded almost child-like, reminiscent of a school-yard bully. Shame.

As for the Jan. 30 Q&A show, I don’t think I’ll write much. There isn’t much to say. Why argue with nonsense, right? You can listen to the Q&A show yourself here. Call-in shows always get off-the-wall, off-topic and crazy. I’ve about reached capacity in my ability to handle and digest pure ridiculousness in one day.

On November 5, friends of mine in the Charlotte Business Guild invited me to come to their special monthly social, “Wine and Poetry: In honor of the ‘It Gets Better’ project.” I was able to read an excerpt from my chapter in “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Religious and Social Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America,” edited by Mitchell Gold. Other community members also spoke, reading excerpts from other writings and poems. View other videos here.

P.S. — I have an absolute disdain microphones (excluding the handheld types). I never, ever, ever realize the microphone stand is too short for me, and I end up bent and slumped over like Quasimodo. Oh well, lol

crisisbookOn Feb. 25, I was honored to participate in a forum with North Carolina businessman and Faith in America founder Mitchell Gold and Faith in America executive director Brent Childers at a small gay bar/lounge here in Charlotte. Usually, politics and religion don’t go well with bars, but it was a great and attentive crowd — we couldn’t have asked for better. We were able discuss issues addressed in Gold’s book, “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In America,” to which both Brent and I also contributed.

Before that later evening event, Mitchell Gold was a special guest of Campus Pride and local LGBT youth support group Time Out Youth at Myers Park Baptist Church. There, a little more than 100 folks turned out to hear Gold speak about his book, his experience growing up as a gay youth and issues of anti-LGBT, religion-based bigotry and prejudice.

A day before the event, I spoke to Campus Pride executive director Shane Windmeyer and asked if it would be appropriate to invite to the Myers Park lecture the editor of Voice of Revolution, a Charlotte-area online magazine run by anti-LGBT theologian and activist Dr. Michael Brown. (You can read my previous, in-depth Special Report on Brown here.)

Continue reading this post…

crisisbookFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Contact:
Campus Pride, 704-277-6710
Time Out Youth, 704-344-8335

This Thursday Feb 25 Nationally Acclaimed Author Mitchell Gold speaks about his book CRISIS at LGBT Youth Fundraiser in Charlotte
Accompanying Gold are two of his CRISIS contributors Rev. Reggie Longcrier of Hickory, NC and Matt Comer of Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, NC, Feb 23, 2010 — The national, Charlotte-based Campus Pride (www.campuspride.org) and local Time Out Youth (www.timeoutyouth.org) have partnered for a joint fundraising event on Thursday, Feb 25 to bring attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and ally youth in the Charlotte area. The fundraiser will take place at 6 p.m. at Myers Park Baptist Church (1900 Queens Road) and then continue at 8 p.m. at Petra’s Piano Bar (1919 Commonwealth Avenue). No tickets are necessary; however, donations are encouraged. Everyone is welcome.

Titled “Believe In Youth,” the event will feature civil rights leader and author Mitchell Gold and his book “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In America.” A resident of Hickory, NC, Gold is a nationally recognized leader in the furniture industry as well as the founder of Faith In America, a national nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness of the harm caused to LGBT Americans by religion-based bigotry and prejudice.

In addition to Gold speaking at Myers Park Baptist Church at 6 p.m., the event continues at Petras Piano Bar at 8 p.m. featuring Gold and two contributors to his book Rev. Reggie Longcrier of Hickory, N.C. and Matt Comer of Charlotte, NC. Continue reading this post…

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Mitchell Gold in Hickory

Last Thursday I had the chance to travel up to Hickory, N.C., for Mitchell Gold’s appearance at Lenior-Rhyne University’s Visiting Writers Series. Gold, editor of “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America,” to which I contributed a chapter, was interviewed on stage by CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien. I’ve got more reflections on the event coming out in my Editor’s Note column with QNotes‘ Feb. 6 print edition.

Until then… here are a few photos from the event, after the jump…

Continue reading this post…

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Christian Century on ‘Crisis’

The Christian Century magazine published an outstanding review of “Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America.” Edited by Mitchell Gold, the book was released in September 2008, has received rave reviews from all corners of the country.

David P. Gushee, professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, a Baptist college in Macon, Ga. Gushee quickly recounts the stories of several of the books contributors, including Jared Horsford, Mitchell Gold, Jarrod Parker, Mary Lou Wallner, Elke Kennedy and me.

He boldly says:

As an evangelical Christian whose career has been spent in the South, I must say I find it scandalous that the most physically and psychologically dangerous place to be (or even appear to be) gay or lesbian in America is in the most religiously conservative families, congregations and regions of this country. Most often these are Christian contexts. Many of the most disturbing stories in this volume come from the Bible Belt. This marks an appalling Christian moral failure.

In contrast to the love and mercy that Jesus exemplified, Christian communities offer young lesbians and gays hate and rejection. Sometimes that rejection is declared directly from the pulpit. But even when church leaders attempt to be more careful, to “hate the sin but love the sinner” (as that hackneyed formulation has it), the love gets lost. Perhaps we need to focus on refining our ability to love; maybe we are not actually capable of compartmentalizing hate.

But the best line comes at the end: “Moreover, after reading these stories, I feel that Christians have something they need to request from God and from gays and lesbians, and that is forgiveness.”

Thank you Professor Gushee.

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Report from Hickory: CRISIS panel

Last night I had the pleasure of taking the hour and fifteen minute drive up to Hickory. It’s a beautiful little town tucked right into the foothills of North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains.

About 100 people showed up at downtown’s Taste Full Beans coffeehouse and gallery to learn more about LGBT people, religion-based prejudice, anti-gay discrimination and growing up gay in the U.S. The topic of discussion: Mitchell Gold’s “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In America.”

Gold moderated a panel of three of the book’s contributors, including me, Faith in America Executive Director Brent Childers and Hickory resident Jeff Austin.

Despite the heavy fog returning home — boy, did that make driving difficult for me — the night was a blast. For such a small and humble town, 100 people showing up to a gay-positive event is fabulous. Hickory’s got a lot of good things going for it. I’m glad I could be even a small part of it.

Thanks to the staff of Taste Full Beans for making the night an overwhelming success!

Past post: “Sense of urgency – ‘Crisis’ book panel Thursday”

The Hickory Daily Record published a story this morning on “Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In America.”

A panel discussion on the book will be held Thursday evening, Dec. 18, at Hickory’s Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse Gallery, 29 2nd Street NW in Downtown Hickory, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Writer Ragan Robinson did a great job:

Book born of ‘a sense of urgency’
Discussion aims to put a human face on the issue of homosexuality, bigotry

by Ragan Robinson . Dec. 16

HICKORY – Not long ago, Mitchell Gold got a note from an 80-year-old woman in Winston-Salem. She wrote that she’d never thought about homosexuality except to be judgmental.

The book Gold edited and paid to publish changed that.

“Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America” features pieces contributed by names readers will recognize, such as Barney Frank and Martina Navratilova.

“A lot of them I knew already,” Gold said. “As soon as I told them what I was doing, they said, ‘That’s exactly what America needs to heal.'”

Far more common are stories from everyday people including writers, editors, ministers, students, doctors and others. Most suffered a crisis, a “black cloud,” Gold calls it in his own story, not because they were homosexual, but because of the fear their world — families, friends, the people they loved — would reject them because of it.

Read the rest…