What LifeSiteNews’ attack on Pat Robertson says about religious freedom.
Last week, there was some curious notice given to American televangelist Pat Robertson, after he expressed support for transitioning trans people, and their access to sex reassignment surgery. Less noticed was the backlash from other far-right groups over the same comments. But it’s worth revisiting, because of what that backlash says about the far right’s battle cry over religious freedom.
It’s very common for far-right ideologues (who I try to distinguish from “Christians,” because they don’t speak for all Christians) to hide behind religious freedom, and cry censorship when they are called out for transphobic and homophobic comments. It has created a public perception of there being a false dichotomy between LGBT human rights and religious belief / practice. It also creates a weird conflation between holding people accountable, and “persecution.”
Personally, I’d rather that folks speak freely. It’s much easier to challenge the content of what is being said, and demonstrate the authentically bigoted attitudes underlying far-right agendas. We’ll probably never change the minds of the Fred Phelpses of the world, but their words and actions say a lot to society at large.
That’s probably why I keep coming back to LifeSiteNews.
LSN is a Canadian faux-news website under the aegis of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), which is pretty unabashed about wanting to end or restrict abortion (with no exceptions), contraception, hormone therapy, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), feminism, organ donation, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, LGBT relationships of any type, LGBT parenting, cohabitation and divorce, and far more. LSN has cheered on Russia’s highly punitive and violent legislation against LGBT people (Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be a champion of religious freedom to LSN, of late), and continues to support organizations that foment anti-gay hatred in Africa, despite having been called out for doing so. LSN has been known to deliberately omit important information, like when the website cheered on new anti-gay legislative proposals in Nigeria, while “forgetting” (despite reminders) that 14 Nigerian states already have the death penalty for LGBT people. Other coverage will sometimes conflate homosexuality and pedophilia, or make a total ban on LGBT expression and advocacy sound like it’s protecting children from pornography. But overall, LSN’s agendas are usually fairly nakedly obvious with just a little bit of examination. So it often provides vivid examples to clearly demonstrate what the ideological far right wants to do.
CLC has also regularly used the LSN blog to attack Catholic organizations that don’t follow exactly the kind of path that CLC believes is proper and Catholic. LSN has attempted to punitively police the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, and was sued when they went after a Quebec priest who LSN portrayed as a “former homosexual prostitute” and a “so-called priest who supports abortion.” Recently, American and international Catholic hospitals, agencies and charities who provide (or support organizations that provide) access to birth control have come under fire.
Now, LSN is encouraging readers to swamp the Christian Broadcasting Network main switchboard with complaints about Pat Robertson, partly for saying that contraception is an acceptable way to provide assistance to impoverished people in Third World nations (specifically, Robertson showed some racism by referring to “Appalachian ragamuffins”), and partly for expressing support (for at least the third time) for sex reassignment surgery and the trans people who seek it.
LSN’s attempt to police Pat Robertson and American Evangelicals on these issues puts the lie to cries of religious persecution, censorship and infringement on religious freedom. As the website and its contributing allies continue to play banhammer on Catholics For Choice, the National Catholic Reporter, Catholic Relief Services, affirming churches, priests and congregations, and more, it shows no qualms about attempting to censure or silence the religious freedoms of other Catholics and of Protestants as well:
In addition to complaining that CRS was involved in distributing abortifacients and contraceptives, the clergy expressed dismay that the majority of CRS’ employees in the country are not Catholic and that it does its work apart from the local church.
“Maybe CRS’s participation in artificial-contraception-promotion programs is the reason that CRS mainly hires Protestants, who have no objection to family planning,” suggested Fr. Liva, SMM, Pastor at St. Thérèse Parish in Tamatave. “If CRS hired Catholics, some of those Catholics might object more strongly to CRS’s participation in that kind of thing.”
Back in January, LSN’s Managing Director Steve Jalsevac declared that affirmation of LGBT people in Catholic congregations, teachers’ unions, hospitals, universities and schools was something that needed to be dealt with “urgently and forcefully:“
When the various Christian churches, not just the Catholics, are largely cleansed of this rejection of authentic Christian morality, then a power of faith will be unleashed that nothing can stop.
In fact, with this attack on Robertson and other insinuations about Evangelicals, LSN now appears to be trying to police who can and can’t be considered Christian. This is also apparent in the website’s latest posturing over poll results which show that a majority of Catholics and a significant number of born-again Evangelicals still support the availability of abortion in at least some cases (let alone contraception), as well as calls to excommunicate legislators who support abortion access and LGBT human & marriage rights.
Granted, there has long been a hypocrisy in the religious freedom argument, with Evangelicals like Bryan Fischer and Pat Buchanan arguing against allowing religious observances of people of other faiths, like Muslims. But at this point, it should be obvious to all that for the people now attempting to define and drive what qualifies as “Christian,” the only religious freedom that matters is their own.
(Crossposted to The Bilerico Project)