In the Wake of the Orlando Massacre

After the initial furor died down about the details of the massacre of 49 people at a gay night club in Orlando, I felt it was important to wait until there was more information rather than rushing to judgment.

What we know is what has been portrayed in the news: a man walked into The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killed a lot of patrons, held hostages, and was killed by the police three hours into the standoff. There is a lot of anger at the Muslim community over this because the shooter claimed allegiance with ISIS and other terrorist organizations.

There is another story that seems to be underlying what the mainstream media is reporting. Omar Mateen appears to have been frequenting gay clubs for several years and been using gay dating apps. Instead of a religious fanatic, could Mr. Mateen have been a closeted gay man who was torn between his desires and his religion?

In no way is this crime any less horrific if we re-examine the motive of the killer. Nothing changes the fact that 49 people died horrifically at the hands of another person. But I think that the anti-homosexual tone at conservative religious institutions should be addressed.

For decades, conservative institutions have fought the LGBT community on employment discrimination, marriage equality, and military service, just to name a few topics. Now that most of the major resistance has collapsed on marriage equality, there are still pockets of resistance in states like Alabama. Despite this, there is increasing acceptance of the LGBT community by the general population.

When will Judaic religious institutions (Christian, Muslim, and Jewish) stop negative depictions of the gay community? Even in the wake of this horrible event we have seen religious leaders praise the killer for what he did. Why is there insistence on demonizing a group of people for being who they are? I know what the Bible says, I’ve heard it plenty of times over the years on what is written about homosexuality but these passages should be considered as out of date as eating shellfish, getting tattoos, wearing clothes of multiple fabrics, growing more than one crop in the same field, or allowing women to speak in church.

What’s even more appalling is that some conservatives are claiming what they say isn’t hate speech and that they’re under attack. If we make the assumption that Omar Mateen was, in fact, gay, and that his religion was staunchly against expressions of that behavior, could this have led him to what he did? We’ve seen time and again where staunchly anti-homosexual crusaders have been found out as being closeted gay people. Most notably there is the story of Ted Haggard, an anti-gay preacher who was secretly seeing a male masseuse for sexual favors. He isn’t the only one who has taken a strong stance on homosexuality only to be found out later.

If conservative institutions will give up their homophobic rhetoric, we can allow our fellow human beings live without fear of discrimination or persecution. As humanists, we need to call out this behavior when we see it. Everyone should be able to live as they please, so long as they do no harm to others.

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