THEY WERE NOT hard to spot. They were wearing name tags, for one thing, and they usually had Southern accents, for another thing, and they had a kind of open, friendly quality about them that you just had to find likable. They were religious broadcasters and while they are probably nice people it is awfully hard to forgive them for what they have done.
You could find them at the Washington Hilton. You could find them in the lobby and in the coffee shop and just standing around talking. You heard talk of rate cards and advertising and you had to conclude that this was indeed big business. This was the group that gave Anita Bryant yet another platform.
She opened the show. She came on Sunday night to sing her songs and hold her usual press conference and before she was through she had said, once again, that she loved homosexuals because God loved homosexuals but that America was in this terrible moral slide, and that something had to be done. People had to take a stand and even though she loved homosexuals and even though God loved homosexuals if you gave them certain basic rights it would only be a matter of time until you had to extend the same rights to people who have sex with animals and sex with the dead. Then having said, she sang her songs and you had to wonder what she would have said about homosexuals if she didn't love them.
Now, I have to tell you that Anita Bryant is the last straw. I have to tell you that I am sick and tired of being poked in the ribs by people with a monopoly on God's truth. I am sick of new systems for finding the truth and new ways for getting totally relaxed and sick of football players like Craig Morton talking about the Super Bowl using the same terms the Crusaders must have used before setting off for Jerusalem. There was a time, after all, when winning really was the only thing.
But most of this is silly and if it does anything it trivializes religion, leaves you wondering how someone can think religion matters on the 50-yard line. But some of this new religious fervor is more serious, more menacing actually, because there is thing about it that says that the more deeply you feel about something the more right you have to make others feel the same way - to get with the program or pay the consequences.
An example of this is the so-called Christian Yellow Pages. They are being published in something like 50 American cities and they accept advertising only from persons who have been Born Again. The fact that this mingles religion with business is almost beside the point. What is to the point is that there is an element of coercion here - a notion that you either convert or suffer ther consequences. What it does is exclude on the basis of religion - what we used to call discrimination.
You get somewhat the same feeling from the antiaborgion people. You can understand their position and you can also understand their opposition, but what you are told is that there is only one morality and the law must reflect that. That is certainly the case when it comes to something like rape or murder - we can all agree on that - but it is not the case with abortion. The plain fact of the matter is that there is no unanimity on the subject. Only recently, for instance, I was visited by a woman representing a host of religious organizations who pointed out that they do not oppose abortion. They would prefer to leave the law as it is - an individual option sort of thing. They would prefer not to have to get with the program - especially one they oppose.
Now we come to Bryant and homesexuality. No one questions her sincerity. No one questions the depth of her religious convictions. The point, though, it that while her feelings are religious, her forum is political. She would like the law to reflect her religious convictions, only her beliefs entail depriving homosexuals of what are fairly basic rights. After all, the Dade County ordinance that brought her to prominence with rights relating to housing and employment.
Imagine for a moment that Bryant had not heard from God on the subject. Imagine simply that she was for either depriving a segment of the population of their rights or not granting them in the first place. Imagine that, if you will, and then imagine that when you question her and say something about discrimination and intolerance and persecution, imagine that she tells you that this whole thing is really about love.
It just sounds like hate.