Silencing “Sectarian Extremists”
Dan Yorke has posted his conversation with gay activist Susan Heroux, who has been calling on the governor to withdraw from a speaking engagement with the Massachusetts Family Institute. Yesterday, Dan raised the issue with Governor Carcieri.
In between, RI Democrat Party Chairman Bill Lynch called in to discuss his press release proclaiming Carcieri a “sectarian extremist” for supporting such a group. What Lynch managed to clarify is that his willingness to raise the rhetoric to that level of heat — indeed, this entire controversy — is based on no additional information than the existence of this paragraph on the group’s Web site:
MFI does not consider homosexual behavior to be merely an alternate lifestyle or sexual “preference”; it is an unhealthy practice and destructive to individuals, families and society. Our compassion for those plagued by same-sex attraction compels us to support the healing of those who wish to change their behavior. MFI strongly opposes any efforts by political activists to normalize homosexual behavior and all attempts to equate homosexuality with benign characteristics such as skin color, or the “gay rights” movement with the civil rights movement.
Those stirring up the issue have offered no evidence that the Massachusetts group actively introduces opposition to homosexuality for public debate as an aggressive campaign to turn back the clock. Their stance is wholly defensive. Indeed, the only current action in this area that I found on their Web site was opposition to a bill that would give men the right to enter women’s facilities (such as bathrooms, locker rooms, and “single sex residential facilities like emergency shelters”) provided they’re dressed as women. This is sectarian extremism?
Regarding the mention of attempts to “normalize” homosexuality, the example on the Family Institute’s Web site is a program by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to indoctrinate school children to, for example, avoid using gendered pronouns, hold “drag show” fundraisers, and be familiar with sexual reassignment surgery (PDF).
As I suggested when I called in to Dan’s show on Tuesday, Susan Heroux’s complaint against MFI’s position “against gay people living as gay people” is a matter of defense of tradition, not attempts to impose a way of life on individual citizens. The whole campaign on the left, now including the RI Democrat Party, is to delegitimize such defense. (To put the issue in context, it would be interesting to know Lynch’s position on unisex bathrooms and drag shows in public schools.)
I do not approve of the above-quoted paragraph and would argue that the Massachusetts Family Institute should adjust its position in such a way as to enable communication across the cultural divide for the purpose of encouraging healthier behavior and conservative family values without requiring a complete repudiation of attractions that many Americans take to be irrevocable attributes of who they are. But Heroux characterized the MFI as a slightly “less obvious” version of the KKK, and it’s a short step to declaring, say, the Catholic Church as a gang of “sectarian extremists.” That’s where they’re going with this.
Putting the rhetoric aside, the Massachusetts Family Institute pursues reactive resistance to an aggressive radical movement. Heroux and Lynch, on the other hand, wish to marginalize that effort and exclude such groups from civic discourse. So who’s the intolerant extremist?