Latvian Anti-Gay Movement Spills Over to U.S.
West Coast Anti-Gay Movement on the March
By Casey Sanchez
The anti-gay tactics of the Slavic evangelicals in the U.S. branch of the Watchmen movement are just as crude and even more physically abusive than Fred Phelps' infamous Westboro Baptist Church, and they're rooted in gay-bashing theology that's even more hardcore than the late Jerry Falwell's. Slavic anti-gay talk radio hosts and fundamentalist preachers routinely deliver hateful screeds on the airwaves and from the pulpit in their native tongue that, were they delivered in English, would be a source of nationwide controversy.
Dennis Mangers, a gay former California state senator who now lobbies for the cable industry, said that when he met a prominent leader of Sacramento's Slavic community at a 2006 weekend reconciliation retreat, the Slavic leader told him: "You have to understand, we equate homosexuals with thieves, adulterers and murderers. … You are an abomination."
Current California State Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who rode in a dignitary car in Sacramento's 2006 gay pride parade, told The Sacramento Bee he was shocked by the vitriolic comments shouted by Slavic fundamentalist counter-demonstrators. "The words are vile … and words may give people the implicit license to take the next step and hurt people."
Last summer, The Speaker, a Russian-language newspaper with an English title in Sacramento, urged readers to attend a massive anti-gay rally: "Make a choice. It's your decision. Homosexuality is knocking on your doors and asking: 'Can I make your son gay and your daughter lesbian?'"
At that rally and others at the California Capitol, thousands of Russian-speaking teens crowded the halls of the Capitol building rotunda, wearing "Sodomy is a Sin" T-shirts. Scarf-wrapped babushkas held up signs that read, "Perversion is never safe" and "I am not learning about gay people."
Last April in Salem, Ore., more than 700 Russian-speaking teenagers rallied outside the state Capitol against a pair of gay rights bills. It was the largest anti-gay protest to take place in Oregon's sleepy capital city since 1992, when the anti-gay Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA) pushed a ballot initiative that came within a few percentage points of rewording the state constitution to declare gay people "abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse" and requiring the state to fire all openly gay or lesbian public school teachers.
The executive director of the OCA at that time was Scott Lively, a longtime anti-gay activist who is now the chief international envoy for the Watchmen movement. Lively also is the former director of the California chapter of the anti-gay American Family Association and the founder of both Defend the Family Ministries and the Pro-Family Law Center, which claims to be the country's "only legal organization devoted exclusively to opposing the homosexual political agenda."
The international nature of the anti-gay movement was seen at the 2006 conference of the so-called Watchmen on the Walls in the alliance between American gay-bashers Kenneth Hutcherson, Scott Lively, and Latvian megachurch preacher Alexey Ledyaev.
The Watchmen movement's strategy for combating the "disease" of homosexuality calls for aggressive confrontation. "We church leaders need to stop being such, for lack of a better word, sissies when it comes to social and political issues," Lively argues in a widely-circulated tract called Masculine Christianity. "For every motherly, feminine ministry of the church such as a Crisis Pregnancy Center or ex-gay support group we need a battle-hardened, take-it-to-the-enemy masculine ministry like [the anti-abortion group] Operation Rescue."
Lively identifies "the enemy" as not only homosexuals, but also what he terms "homosexualists," a category that includes anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, who "actively promotes homosexuality as morally and socially equivalent to heterosexuality as a basis for social policy."
When he personally confronts the enemy, Lively practices what he preaches when it comes to "battle-hardened" tactics. He recently was ordered by a civil court judge to pay $20,000 to lesbian photojournalist Catherine Stauffer for dragging her by the hair through the halls of a Portland church in 1991.
The Pink Passport
Lively occasionally writes for Chalcedon Report, a journal published by the Chalcedon Foundation, the leading Christian Reconstructionist organization in the country. (Reconstructionists typically call for the imposition of Old Testament law, including such draconian punishments as stoning to death active homosexuals and children who curse their parents, on the United States.) But he's most famous as the co-author of The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party.
Published in 1995, the book is a breathtaking work of Holocaust revisionism. It asserts that Hitler was gay — a claim no serious historian supports — and that Hitler and other evil gay fascists were central in forming the Nazi Party, operating the Third Reich and orchestrating the Holocaust. (Lively's most recent book, The Poisoned Stream, similarly details "a dark and powerful homosexual presence" through "the Spanish Inquisition, the French 'Reign of Terror,' the era of South African apartheid, and the two centuries of American Slavery.")
The Pink Swastika — whose cover has a swastika in place of the "x" in "homosexuality" in the book's subtitle — has been roundly discredited by legitimate historians and was thoroughly debunked in a 2005 Intelligence Report article. Stephen Feinstein, director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota, said the book was "produced by a right-wing Christian cult and is as correct as flat earth theory."
Lively declined to answer several E-mails seeking comment.
Nevertheless, The Pink Swastika has become Lively's passport to fame among anti-gay church leaders and their followers in Eastern Europe, as well as Russian-speaking anti-gay activists in America. Lively frequently speaks about the book and his broader anti-gay agenda in churches, police academies and television news studios throughout the former Soviet Union.
Lively credits the popularity of Russian-language translations of The Pink Swastika to the support of Pastor Alexey Ledyaev, the head of the New Generation Church, an evangelical Christian megachurch based in Riga, the capital city of Latvia. New Generation has more than 200 satellite churches spread throughout Eastern Europe, Argentina, Israel and the United States.
"One of my supporters gave him [Ledyaev] a copy of The Pink Swastika. He was very impressed by it," Lively said in a December 2006 radio show on WTTT-AM, based in Boston. "The European press was bashing them [Ledyaev and his church] for being Nazis. He was finally thrilled that he had something to counter the media with." Ledyaev did not respond to E-mails seeking comment.
Since then, Lively said, "I've been deluged by media speaking offers all over the former Soviet Union."
In Sacramento, editorials in The Speaker urge readers to buy The Pink Swastika. Even right-wing legislators in the California Assembly are said to audibly groan when Slavic evangelicals wave a copy of the pink volume during testimony.
Rock Operas and Reconstruction
The New Generation theology Ledyaev preaches borrows heavily from R.J. Rushdoony, the late founding thinker of Christian Reconstruction. Pastor Ledyaev's 2002 book, New World Order, calls for evangelical Christians around the world to influence the wealthy and powerful in their home countries to implement biblical law in order to stave off a supposed alliance of gays and Muslims hell-bent on destroying Christianity. "The first devastating wave of homosexuality makes a way for the second and more dangerous wave of islamization [sic]," writes Ledyaev.
Born in Kazakhstan, Ledyaev doesn't even speak fluent Latvian. But he's quite proficient in the international language of the anti-gay Christian Right. Ledyaev is close friends with Southern Baptist televangelist Pat Robertson — a man who once predicted God would punish Florida with hurricanes and other disasters because Disney World had allowed a "Gay Days" discount — and was invited to the 2006 National Prayer Breakfast hosted by President George Bush.