What is violence? Scott Lively, Erwin Lutzer and Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill
This weekend Moody Church pastor Erwin Lutzer is slated to speak at a banquet hosted by the American for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH). Also on the agenda is the presentation of AFTAH's "Truth Teller" Award to Scott Lively. You can read more about Mr. Lively here. I have written much about him, his book The Pink Swastika, and his work in Uganda.
Because of the presence of Lively, a Chicago area gay activist group, the Gay Liberation Network, wrote Rev. Lutzer to inform him of Lively's views and background in Uganda. One of the accusations from the GLN is that Lively supports violence against gays in Uganda. Lively and LaBarbera say it is not true. Which is it?
To address this, the definition of violence is relevant. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines violence as an "exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse" or "injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation." Another definition is given describing intense force or turbulence, such as a violent storm. As it relates to interpersonal violence, the violent action may involve physical injury or "profanation" which can include verbal debasement (The Pink Swastika qualifies) or contemptuous treatment. When it comes to the situation in Uganda, Scott Lively has rejected the death penalty associated with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He favors a situation where those convicted of homosexual behavior would have an option for treatment. In other words, face a penalty of some kind or "choose" to go into a government sanctioned process to change sexual orientation. Here is what he wrote about the matter in an essay:
Let me be absolutely clear. I do not support the proposed anti-homosexuality law as written. It does not emphasize rehabilitation over punishment and the punishment that it calls for is unacceptably harsh. However, if the offending sections were sufficiently modified, the proposed law would represent an encouraging step in the right direction. As one of the first laws of this century to recognize that the destructiveness of the “gay” agenda warrants opposition by government, it would deserve support from Christian believers and other advocates of marriage-based culture around the world.
Note that Lively advises support for the bill if the death penalty was "modified." As a reminder, the bill without the death penalty would still provide life in jail for someone who "touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality." Is advocating life in jail for disapproved private conduct violence toward those who engage in that conduct? Scott Lively was interviewed by Marissa Van Zeller of Vanguard Television and asked his view of the bill without the death penalty. In that interview, he supported a bill without the death penalty as "the lesser of two evils." You can view the interview here. In it, Lively said:
Like I said, I would not have written the bill this way. But what it comes down to is a question of lesser of two evils, you know like many of the political choices that we have. What is the lesser of two evils here? To allow the American and European gay activists to continue to do to that country what they’ve done here? Or to have a law that may be overly harsh in some regards for people who are indulging in voluntary sexual conduct? I think the lesser of two evils is for the bill to go through.
Scott Lively says he does not favor violence toward gay people, but he does say that the Ugandans are to be commended and that the bill, sans the death penalty, would be acceptable. If the bill was passed and enforced in Uganda, GLBT people would be subject to arrest for physical actions that someone in authority thought was sexual in nature. They could lose everything they have and spend their remaining days in a Ugandan prison. Others could be arrested simply for advocating on behalf of GLBT people. Is this violence?
What if Scott Lively had his way and GLBT people in Uganda (or here, since he likes the idea so much) were forced into some kind of "treatment." Even NARTH who is hosting an advocate of criminalization at their upcoming conference, has said forced treatment doesn't work. Exodus clearly denounced it. If NARTH and Exodus say treatment applied under durress is ineffective, then what model are you recommending Mr. Lively?
I surely don't want the government to take my freedom, access to my family and possessions because because of a moral disagreement. If I was the recipient of such treatment, it would seem like violence to me.