In a search for why 65% of Americans believe “religious messages” about homosexuality generate negative impressions of gay people and contribute to gay youth suicides, we have so far listed two factors: one, the prevalence of hateful messages from the likes of Fred Phelps; and two, the prevalence of insensitive messages from conservative political/religious advocacy groups. I will evaluate other factors in the coming days.
Today, I want to break into my analysis of the Religion News Service (RNS) poll to share a story that succinctly links “religious messages” about homosexuality to bullying, hate speech, insensitivity and gay youth suicide. Importantly, this story began spreading nationally at the end of September as gay teen suicides surged. This story peaked days before the RNS poll was conducted.
For roughly six months, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell, 40, has been targeting 21-year old Chris Armstrong, the University of Michigan’s first openly gay President of the Student Body. Claiming he is a “Christian citizen exercising my First Amendment Rights,” Shirvell has smeared Armstrong with a public blog, harassed him outside social events, and protested at his home.
Initially, Attorney General Mike Cox defended Shirvell’s right to free speech. After mounting pressure, however, Cox finally fired Shirvell yesterday. Shirvell’s blog is now viewable to invited guests only. When it was public, the blog referred to Armstrong as “privileged pervert,” “racist and elitist to the core,” “Satan’s representative,” “Nazi-like recruiter for the cult that is homosexuality,” and accused him of “sexual escapades at churches and children’s playgrounds.” Unlike the Clint McCance case, Shirvell is not backing down.
After months of absorbing stalking, slander and harassment, Chris Armstrong finally broke his silence. He did not go public to attack Shirvell; he humbly sacrificed his privacy in order to speak hope to gay teens who are suicidal. To say to them in effect: you are not alone in being bullied; and there is hope.
I ask you: who sounds more like Jesus?
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