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Religious Right Claims Gay Advocates to Blame for Suicides

By Robert Steinback on October 22, 2010 - 3:01 pm, Posted in Anti-LGBT

More than a little rhetorical contortionism is required to follow their logic, but according to several better-known leaders of the religious right, responsibility for the recent wave of suicides of gay teens rests largely with… gay-rights activists.

The argument goes something like this: Young homosexuals who are relentlessly bullied and taunted commit suicide because gay-rights advocates (eager to “recruit” new homosexuals and to make the world gay-friendly) encourage acceptance of homosexuality among normal (meaning straight) children, which confuses them about their own sexual “preference.” That, added to gay-rights activists’ purported efforts to “bully” Christians to prevent them from condemning homosexuality, creates an intolerable level of emotional stress, leading to tragedy.

Five teenagers nationwide committed suicide during a three-week span in September after being bullied, taunted or outed as homosexuals. Seven student suicides — at least four of which apparently involved anti-gay bullying — rocked a single Minnesota school district during the last year. On Tuesday, a 19-year-old Oakland University student who had reportedly been bullied since revealing that he was gay, took his own life. (Earlier this month, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a 40-minute documentary on the subject, “Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case That Made History,” that is being offered free to schools around the country.)

But even the occasion of these young suicides — something that has horrified most Americans and received intensive media attention — has been taken by some right-wing commentators as merely one more opportunity to bash gays.

“I’m expecting some serious blowback on this,” said Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for government and public policy for the American Family Association, in an Oct. 14 video broadcast, “but I want to suggest that homosexual activists are not wholly innocent in these tragedies, in these horrible suicides by these students. Now, realize that homosexuals cannot reproduce, so they have to recruit. It’s the only way to swell their numbers.

“We, the sexually normal, we can be fruitful, we can multiply, we can fill the earth,” Fischer continued. “Homosexuals cannot do it. They’re incapable of procreation … Now part of the agenda of groups like GLSEN [the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network] … is to urge students at younger and younger ages to come out of the closet and declare a disordered sexual preference for themselves, so you’ve got sexually confused young people.

“They’re trying to get this brainwashing into students of all ages, even starting in elementary school, and what they’re urging them to do is self-declare as homosexuals before they are mature enough to make any sort of rational decision about sexual matters,” Fischer said. “So I’m suggesting that adults that pressure these students to declare a disordered sexual preference when they’re too young to know better, that they share some culpability for those who take their li[ves].”

A week earlier, in an article published by right-wing website and entitled, “Is ‘gay agenda’ to blame for teen suicides?”, Mission America president Linda Harvey wrote: “‘Gay’ advocacy is growing, now aimed at kids at younger and younger ages. … Kids are urged to ‘come out’ early. That’s exactly what several of these young victims did, and such actions are often associated with early suicide attempts.

“As the supporters of homosexuality nudge kids into a known risky behavior … they simultaneously suppress, marginalize or mischaracterize traditional views that discourage homosexuality,” Harvey added.

The next day, Matt Barber, director of cultural affairs for Liberty Counsel, picked up the theme in an article published by the Illinois Family Institute entitled, “‘Gay’ Lobby Shamelessly Exploits Teen Suicides.” Barber asserted that prevention of suicide isn’t the aim of gay-rights activists at all — what they really want is to use the tragedies to increase pressure on the real victims: Christians.

“It makes me physically ill to watch as the HRC [Human Rights Coalition, the largest gay-rights organization] and other ‘gay’ militants lick their chops and rub their hands together over the tragic suicides of these troubled, sexually confused young men,” Barber wrote.  “Before they were even laid to rest, the radical homosexual lobby pounced leveraging these suicides to demand that government codify each of their extremist, social engineering demands. This is political exploitation at its slimiest and it pours salt on the wounds of loved ones. … Their mission is not one of ‘tolerance’ or ‘diversity.’ Quite the opposite: Their goal is to fan flames of anti-Christian bigotry and discrimination, evangelizing on behalf of their own perverted god: moral relativism.”

The answer for “sexually confused young men,” Barber wrote, is for them to confess their sin and repent through Jesus Christ.

On Oct. 11, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins even managed to get the Washington Post to run his op-ed, in which he reiterated the point: “Homosexual activist groups like GLSEN … are exploiting these tragedies to push their agenda of demanding not only tolerance of homosexual individuals, but active affirmation of homosexual conduct and their efforts to redefine the family.”

These perspectives rely on a long- and widely debunked assumption that young people’s natural sexual orientation can be “confused” by mere suggestion or “corrected” by a simple act of will. Harvey explicitly declares, in italics, “No one is born gay.” Fischer’s argument that “gays can’t reproduce” implies, nonsensically, that heterosexual couples only bear heterosexual children, some of whom are somehow “converted” to homosexuality later. Barber’s reference to “sin” implies that homosexuality is just bad behavior that can be overcome.

In fact, every credible scientific study done since 2000 suggests that sexual orientation is a complex and not-yet-fully understood mixture of genetic and environmental factors — and that no persuasive evidence exists that one’s natural sexual orientation can be altered or “confused” by any kind of external influence. In 2009, the American Psychological Association concluded that compelling evidence that someone had gone from gay to straight “was rare,” and that “there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation.”

“It’s unfortunate, at a time when most of the country is coming together to recognize the need to address anti-LGBT bullying, that some organizations are still trying to divide us and lay blame with people who are trying to make schools safer for everyone,” said GLSEN public relations manager Daryl Presgraves.

Presgraves said the comments from Fischer, Harvey, Barber and Perkins are not representative of all conservative organizations, some of which, including the Christian Educators Association International, are working with GLSEN on the issue of bullying in schools directed at gays and other high-risk groups. “We are very excited to work with any Christian organization that is willing to recognize that destructive rhetoric isn’t going to solve anything, and who actually follow the teaching of the Bible that says we should love thy neighbor,” he said.

  • Mitch Beales

    Are you suggesting that bullying is OK if you are bullying someone because they do something you think is “sinful”? It is certainly true that bullying has gone on since time immemorial and is likely to continue but bullying based on race, creed, color or national origin is prohibited by law. It’s high time the same protections were extended on the basis of sexual orientation or identity.

  • R Lavigueur


    The mental health community has considered homosexuality, what you’re calling a ‘lifestyle’, to be disordered, they did so for decades and it took decades for the consensus to change. That it did change cannot be denied, beginning with important strides like the studies by Evelyn Hooker, which were among the first of many to demonstrate that homosexuality does not correlate with psychological imbalances. Since that time, the scientific consensus has gradually moved toward the impression that homosexuality is a natural aspect of human sexual diversity. Efforts to ‘correct’ homosexuality via therapy have all but universally failed.

    Biblical condemnation is the starting point for many discussions on the religious right about homosexuality, the problem is, in many cases it is also the stopping point. The experiences of gay and lesbian people, and the peer-reviewed and growing body of research supporting the fact that homosexuality and bisexuality are natural are ignored, dismissed, or diminished out of hand. I’d be curious to know exactly where your conception that homosexuality is a disorder comes from. If religion was your starting point, or even if it wasn’t, what other evidence have you found to support this position?

    In any case, while it’s true that homosexuality is more acceptable now than it has been at other points in modern history, more accepted and fully accepted are not the same thing, not even close.

    I would argue that homosexuality does create a conflict for some children, but not because the ‘lifestyle’ is inherently disordered. Instead, the conflict is between what they naturally feel and what their society tells them they should feel. A gay or lesbian youth, especially if they cannot trust their own families to be supportive of them, is going to be living with stress and fear that a straight kid will never experience. For many such youth, this results in depression, isolation, and, in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts.

    Here’s the important part. This has nothing, nothing, to do with their ‘lifestyles’ and many commit suicide or fall into drug abuse without ever having experienced any same-sex sexual contact.

    Children can be incredibly cruel, and adults crueller still, and by promoting, accepting, or perpetuating the abuse of these children by their peers and ensuring that these children are isolated, told that their feelings are wrong and that hell waits for them, and unable to find assistance, our society ensures that there will be more of these tragic, pointless deaths. It is not a coincidence that these suicides are far less frequent when children have supportive parents, supportive communities and positive ideas about their sexual identities.

  • Jeff

    Again, I question whether an organization that purports to preach tolerance needs to do a better job of acknowledging that for many Christians, the biblical condemnation is a starting point on the discussions.

    Without diminishing the tragedy of any suicide. People have been bullied for all sorts of things at least as long as there has been schools gathering young people together. what is different about this type of bullying? Clearly as a society there is greater acceptance of the homosexuallifestyle now than at any other time of modern history.

    I think it is patently irresponsible for the mental health community to refuse to consider the possibility that a contributing factor to the depression that leads to the suicide is that the homosexual lifestyle is disordered and that living consistent with that disorder sets up a conflict in the individual’s psyche.

  • luzmejor

    It’s plain to see that right wing church goers’ beliefs extend only to their own confusion about what religion is.

    Christianity is an actual religion with well-defined beliefs about how their members should comport themselves.
    These right wing groups must have confused that venerable religious philosophy with old Nazi propaganda from the Third Reich.

  • Mike

    You know, if the college man who was filmed having gay sex with another gay man was filmed with some girl hottie he wouldn’t be dead. He would be walking around with his chest puff out like a studd. Heck, his dad would probably brag about it.

  • beholder

    diverdannavyvet said,

    on October 28th, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    I have no problem with the King James bible being in school…….., right alongside the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bahagvdgita, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Wiccan bible, the Roman Catholic bible, the Talmud, the Gnostic bible the Argument for Atheism etc……you get the point right?


    I definitely agree with you on that. That aspect of the question seems pretty clear, to me at least. I’d be curious to hear from those who think otherwise.

    But that scenario leads to certain educational questions in public schools. If the state cannot “establish” religion, but we do allow and protect faith as a form of personal self expression, how then do we handle the conflictst that arise when a student in class says, “hey, Darwin is wrong, my bible tells me so,” or a Wiccan student opposes the women on broomsticks images going up for holiday decorations at the school, and so on.

    I am sure there are ways to address this in the best interest of observing Constitutional guidelines, but the topic seem so fraught with different and opposing viewpoints and agendas that it’s understandable how some could say, let’s just ban all religion in the schools because anything the state does to manage these questions could end up violating someone’s rights.

    Surely other people see that five students sitting around in a classroom, each with a different holy book (or an athiest text) could lead to issues of state establishment of religions as well as freedom of expression. And I don’t think avoiding talking about religion at all is an educational option — faith is part of civilization.

    This may be simple ignorance on my part, so are there any educators or other people in the forum who can respond?

  • NeedtoRead333

    WHEN will these people stop embarrassing themselves?? Can they get any more ridiculous and extreme? Recruiting?? Guess that free toaster oven for each “recruit” really motivates….or is it a cash bonus now??

  • Marisa

    Dr. Tina, you have said it PERFECTLY. I am straight, have gay friends, and the straight people I know agree with you 100 percent. RELIGION can be just awful – promoting ignorance, superstition, fear, and guilt. The extreme right-wing religions should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Staggo Lee

    What many people choose not to acknowledge, horrified in fact, is that teens already have sexual identities, regardless of any influence, either from the left or right. Self-identification is not the problem, here. Fear of repercussion, if the “wrong” self-awareness of unapproved orientation is discovered in a child, is.

  • diverdannavyvet

    I have no problem with the King James bible being in school…….., right alongside the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bahagvdgita, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Wiccan bible, the Roman Catholic bible, the Talmud, the Gnostic bible the Argument for Atheism etc……you get the point right?

  • diverdannavyvet

    Jesus NEVER said a single word about Homosexuality.
    It IS however mentioned in the ‘Old Testament’ or Torah. The same book where ‘God’ COMMANDS ‘His’ followers to “Rip the children from the wombs of unbelieving women and KILL THEM”. Nice touch huh?

  • Bob

    Now i’ve seen it all, continued hate from the pulpit, or those Republicans who claim to be near a pulpit.

  • Martha

    The religious right, evangelicals never cease to amaze me. Blaming GLTB groups for the suicides and “recruiting” teenagers to be homosexual shouldn’t suprise me but it continues to be disturbing. I liken it to groups that blame the Jews for “making the Holocaust necessary” How could anyone believe being GLTB is anything but something a person is born with is beyond my ability to comprehend. Did they chose to be hetersexual? I doubt it! Given the climate in much of the world about this and how many people are bullied, beaten up and killed, how can anyone believe a peson would make this choice. I am a practicing Christian and active in a liberal church where diversity on many levels is soughst after and welcomed warmly. Others like me now feel we have to explain that we are Christian but not part of “those kind of Chistians” I formerly worked for a faith based agency where I would not have been allowed on property were I lesbian. Many co-workers believed homosexuality to be an abomination and that such people could and should be sent to couseling to be “degayed”. Appalling. Furthermore, that an issue is that they cannot procreate – good heavens, that is not everyone’s purpose on the planet. Do they judge heterosexuals who do not have children? Probably not. What do they have to say about hetersexuals who are guilty of adultry, rape, incest, murder, child neglect and abuse. I could go on and on but have done so long enough.

  • Solis

    Just wanted to chime in on GLSEN or HRC “recruiting” or “converting” teenagers to homosexuality. I’ve been heavily involved in GSAs, GLSEN, and HRC since my Sophomore year of high school (I’m a college freshman now). I’ve never felt like I’d been recruited or someone was trying to force me to be gay, in fact, I’m just as straight as I was when I stepped into my first GSA.

    On the other hand, I do see constant unacceptance by factions of the Religious Right. I see them confusing my fellow members with rhetoric, calling them sinners, blasphemers, and every other bad word they can spit out. And when those pathetic excuses for religious leaders are done with their political posturing and the bodies of young men and women lie before their feet, they point at what may have been their only support and say “hey, you did it!”

    This article shows the exact kind of idiocy that comes from the Religious Right that drives straight people towards GSAs to help fight against this persecution. I strive to show the GLBT community that they aren’t alone. Obviously, that’s some kind of bullying in the eyes of Linda Harvey and others.

    Sorry for the rant.

  • Jackieblu

    People that haven’t clue on of what their talking about schould NOT blog about it…. Jesus was a brown skinned, long haired, wine swigging, weed smoking, bleeding heart, dirty liberal Hippy. (Did he ever marry. can’t remember- no matter), Jesus did NOT judge, he did not turn people away in need, he was his brothers keeper.
    Word is Jesus is coming and boy is he PO’d at you GOP Teabagger type haters, bigots, liars, and Hypocrites…. Thou shall NOT judge. You racist aren’t born they are taught at home. Racist = Haters, their UGLY & God Don’t like Ugly!!!!

  • Dr. Tina


  • beholder


    I think kids should be allowed to bring a bible if they want, too. Why not?

    I’m just wondering what the reaction from the religious right would be if they got bullied.

    That it’s the fault of religious groups recruiting? Or that they are exploiting the issue for political gain?

  • kevin

    I just wanted to point out the the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment guarantees the right of a student to carry a Bible and to pray in school as long as it does not disrupt school activity. The Establishment Clause on the other hand prohibits the school from engaging or endorsing any prayer or religious activity.

  • beholder

    NTX said,
    on October 23rd, 2010 at 10:15 pm
    Practicing Christians typically have close-knit families, which is a good thing, since Christian children are typically forbidden to pray at and/or carry their Bibles to public schools.

    I recall from scripture Matthew 6:6.

    “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

    I thought it was fitting to point that out, given the topic of this comment thread.

  • Mitch Beales

    The references cited in the comments posted here make it clear that, far from contributing to teen suicide, accepting the sexual orientation of teens tends to prevent suicide. The “religious” organizations that label gay kids as “sinners”, “disordered, “confused”, or “unnatural”, on the other hand, almost certainly contribute to the rejection that leads to suicide. The close Christian families that NTX touts only make it worse when they reject a family member who is gay.

    I doubt that Bryan Fischer has a clue about evolution but if he did he would realize that we evolve more as groups than as individuals. Thus when a gay uncle doesn’t reproduce but instead helps to care for and provide for his sister’s children he assures that genes for homosexuality will be preserved. It may be “socialist” but it is undeniably adaptive. Lest anyone think that the “religious right” in any sense represents a religious consensus check out

  • Carter

    -> AND……Just so there is no confusion…..I am NOT making ANY argument for prayer in schools one way or another; I’m simply pointing out the law and it’s documentation.

    I AM a religious man. I attend services regularly. I believe others should be allowed to attend or NOT ATTEND services of their choice. I am -=NOT=- evangelical in any sense of the word and fervently view the act of attempting to persuade someone to believe a certain way is NOT what my religion teaches me.
    People are given free will to discern a deity or lack of same. In fact my Christian religious potion of some of my family (Methodist) believes similar and are MUCH less evangelical than most any I have sen.
    Those family members believe that the simple concept of evangelicalism is divisive and one should set by example the tone of desirability of a particular religious faith.

  • Carter

    The ambiguity re: prayer in public schools MAY have come about due to our popular interpretation of the
    1st Amendment & it’s religious guarantees. However there CAN be restrictions to that issue and guidelines that (again) make it difficult to exercise. Below are the Federal statutes & related materiel.
    Note that there may be differences in “States-Rights” & local execution of the Federal rulings – this may be where confusion comes from.


    Actual Federal statutes that apply as general guidelines. However the States may mandates certain agenda which may place this in a difficult “compliance arena”.

    We have Federal / Constitutional Law and it’s actual practice: much like the 14th Amendment had met in various States.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    NTZ, while I am still patiently waiting for you to provide any statute or law which prevents prayer in school or the possession of Bibles, as you claimed, I will share my own experience in public high school. I went to a very large high school which had a recognized Christian students group, which was allowed to hold meetings on campus in school facilities. They also held public prayer meetings on school grounds, in full view of everyone.

  • beholder

    NTX said,
    Beholder – Are you trying to present a point to the effect that the suicide of a homosexual child is somehow worse than that of a heterosexual child?

    Nope. The suicide of any child is terrible. I’m just saying that suicide of LGB teens is not the consequence of their identity as non-heterosexual, but instead a consequence of their family’s rejection.

    The religious right generally insists that teens shouldn’t be exposed to information about adult sexuality (much less anything that strays from compulsory heterosexuality) — many even say that LGB support groups are efforts by adults to “recruit” minors.

    I think a good argument can be made that teens should not be required to address issues of sexuality because a lot of them may not be mature enough — some may even find it against their faith, which is also part of their identity and should be respected.

    But a lot of teens are sexually active too and I think it’s hardly a good idea to prevent them from getting factual information simply because some adults would like to believe that human sexuality begins at 18.

    So, it was interesting that pediatricians are saying that it is advisable to refer teens who are in conflict about their sexual orientation to LGB support groups where they can sort it out without being rejected.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    NTX, please post the law or statue forbidding Christian children the right to pray(on their own time) in school or carry bibles. If you are not able to provide proof of such regulations or legislation, I’m sure we would all accept an apology for your ignorance of the law.

  • R Lavigueur


    I fail to see how Beholder’s post indicated anything of the sort, what his post did indicate, and the research backs this up, is that rejection by families drives LGBT children to suicide. This doesn’t make their suicides somehow more tragic than the suicide of a heterosexual child, but it does put their tragedies in a different category.

    What Beholder was, I believe, trying to point out is that these gay and lesbian children have been rejected by their families or bullied by their peers because of their sexual orientation, and it was this rejection, not their sexual orientation or hormones, which left them depressed enough to commit suicide. Sometimes, straight children are rejected by their parents, and child abuse can certainly occur whether one is gay or straight, but there seem to be very few if any cases of children being alienated from those who should protect them because the child is straight.

    LGBT children go through the same struggles in their youth as other young people, but have added to their burdens the knowledge that many in society see them as deviant, amoral, diseased and sinful.

    A recent study of attitudes in Canadian schools has found that 75% of gay and lesbian students and 95% of transgender students feel unsafe at their schools, compared to 20% of straight students. Only 20% of LGBT children felt comfortable talking to a parent about these issues, so while your account of a supportive Christian family is encouraging, the facts show that it cannot be taken as the norm. Nor is the situation in America any better, with a resent GLSEN study reporting similar numbers of American LGBT students in terms of victimization and feelings of acceptance and safety.

    The facts are clear, anti LGBT prejudice is endemic in North American schools, and it this prejudice and the all too common rejection of LGBT individuals by those who should be defending them that are responsible for the disproportionate rate of suicide afflicting this group of people.

    PS: Any family that states that they accept their son’s ‘Choice’ of homosexuality cannot truly be considered supportive. This tells the son that their parents consider their sexuality to be chosen, a phase, or otherwise less than natural and intrinsic. As a gay man, I can say from my own experience that those who consider sexual orientation a choice are rarely supportive in both their words and actions, and while she might feel supportive and honestly want to support her son, it sounds like her beliefs about sexual orientation are still centered in religion or tradition rather than the overwhelming scientific consensus that sexuality is unchosen and outside of personal control.

  • NTX

    Carter – I think yours was a thoughtful and honest post, especially your declaration that “Young people need a road map not a crown”.

    Ruslan – Practicing Christians typically have close-knit families, which is a good thing, since Christian children are typically forbidden to pray at and/or carry their Bibles to public schools.

    Beholder – Are you trying to present a point to the effect that the suicide of a homosexual child is somehow worse than that of a heterosexual child? I hope not. Teenagers are prone to hormonal changes, peer pressure, and all manner of stress – as Carter’s post mentions. Those who feel alienated by their families and peers are most at risk, no matter what their sexual preference.


    I distinctly remember listening to a radio talk-show years ago (I forgot whether it was NPR or Pacifica). A woman had called in, saying that her son was gay, and that the family accepted his choice. She was concerned because he had joined a gay-lesbian group, and to her it seemed that they were more concerned about him voting for their political choices when he turned 18 than they were about him as a person. She was upset, and I certainly didn’t blame her.

  • Carter

    “Doctors recommend referral of these teens to LGB community support programs — the very same programs the religious right blame for the suicides.”

    VERY LOGICAL position. I would like to have read more on that issue as I think it encapsulates the core of the problem.

    A young person’s life is filled with rejection from their peers; that generally part of the social dynamic for many if not most. but pull the support or caring of a family away…..& many young people would believe they have nothing.

    I wouldn’t want to be young again so eagerly [as I once had thought]. The more I recognize the pain and anguish (especially) experienced during late adolescence and early 20’s…..the more I am very grateful for that stage of life being behind me.

    I find it very interesting how America glorifies youth while not recognizing it’s pain, lack of self acceptance, vulnerability, selfishness, & yearning for peer cohesiveness.
    That stage of life is not to be emulated but to be supported and guided. Instead we make a youth culture & wonder why we are so immature in our overall social interaction.
    Young people need a road map not a crown.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Oh those poor persecuted Christians. I wonder how many of them have committed suicide due to bullying in schools. Oh wait….

  • Paen

    Why is everyone acting like this stuff is anything new.

  • beholder

    Now that we know what the religious right thinks, let’s see what medical doctors have to say.

    Here is a link to the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, with the first ever medical study into the phenomenon of suicide by LGB teens:


    What they found was that family rejection — and NOT non-heterosexual identity — was the number one factor in causing suicide by these teens.

    Doctors recommend referral of these teens to LGB community support programs — the very same programs the religious right blame for the suicides.