In June, Rolling Stone reporter Andy Kroll did a profile on 63-year-old LGBT megadonor Tim Gill, who explained why the LGBT movement has targeted conservative Christians: “We’re going to punish the wicked.” When conservative and Christian outlets called Gill out on this rhetoric, Kroll responded claiming that the megadonor never intended to target Christians.
Kroll pointed to a few headlines in The Federalist, The Blaze, and The Washington Times (here’s PJ Media’s version) that all suggested Gill’s “punish the wicked” comments were a declaration that the LGBT movement would target Christians. “This is complete nonsense,” the Rolling Stone reporter wrote in response.
“Not once in my profile does Gill talk about ‘targeting’ Christians,” Kroll argued. “Not once does Gill so much as hint at singling out Christians or adherents of any other religion. Not once does the word ‘Christian’ appear.”
The reporter decried the whole episode as “a small but useful case study of how the warped echo chamber of conservative media works.”
But Kroll’s response fell short on numerous counts. It is true that the original profile never mentioned Christians, but it did mention “nondiscrimination” efforts, in the very same paragraph where “punish the wicked” appears.
Any conservative Christian familiar with recent court cases knows what this “nondiscrimination” effort means. It means punishing Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman, Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, Michigan farmers Steve and Bridget Tennes, Colorado baker Jack Philips (whose case will come before the Supreme Court), and many others.
What do all these people have in common? They are committed Christians, who, for reasons of faith, refused to extend their services to a same-sex wedding, despite their history of gladly serving LGBT people in other settings. Each of them were targeted for “discriminating” against gay people for their decision not to partake in a public event solemnizing something they believe to not be a marriage.
Note, they never discriminated against LGBT people — they gladly served them in their shops and in their business. It was only one specific event, a same-sex wedding, that they all wished not to associate with. This was not discrimination, it was an exercise of their right to association (and dissociation), their right to free speech, and their right to religious freedom.
Make no mistake, “nondiscrimination” is a code word for cases like these, and any conservative Christian knows that full well. In fact, some LGBT groups have announced plans to target churches, forcing them to host same-sex weddings against their convictions.
In fact, Kroll revealed quite clearly that Gill’s line about “punishing the wicked” emphatically did apply to conservative Christians, despite his declaration that all such claims are “complete nonsense.”
In his response article, Kroll pointed out that Gill has used the phrase “punish the wicked” for years — in 2007 against Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), for example. “‘The wicked’ is anyone who stands in the way of progress on equal rights for LGBTQ people: politicians, activists, lawyers, some people of faith and plenty more with no religious affiliation whatsoever,” the Rolling Stone author explained (emphasis added).
Yes, he fully admitted that “some people of faith” fit into the category of “the wicked.” Indeed, Kroll went even further — he explicitly connected “the wicked” to proponents of religious freedom bills that would allow conservative believers to abide by their consciences in the wake of the 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage.
Naturally, Kroll used the “discrimination” code once again, attacking religious freedom bills as giving “legal cover for individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.”
Make no mistake, this is a reference to cases like those of Aaron and Melissa Klein, Barronelle Stutzman, Steve and Bridget Tennes, and Jack Phillips. These people faced government punishment and exclusion because they wished to exercise their First Amendment rights to not associate with a same-sex wedding ceremony. They were not discriminating against LGBT people, just refusing to publicly endorse an event they disagreed with.
This is no different from a Muslim singer refusing a request to sing at a Christian Christmas or Easter service, or an African-American baker refusing to bake a cake with a Ku Klux Klan symbol on it, or an atheist refusing to bake a cake that says “God is good.”
If the Kleins, Stutzman, the Tenneses, or Phillips had refused to serve LGBT people in everyday business, that would be discrimination, and that would be wrong. But that’s not the issue, even if Kroll pretends that it is.
Finally, Kroll’s most ridiculous response was to point out that LGBT donor Tim Gill has partnered with liberal Christians to push the LGBT message. “It’s worth pointing out that Gill and his foundation actively fund organizations that team up with faith leaders in support of LGBTQ equality,” the Rolling Stone reporter explained.
He quoted Rev. Troy Mendez, a liberal Christian who declared, “With inclusion, we are building up the kingdom of God.”
Kroll also pointed to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, another Christian from a liberal denomination who vetoed a religious freedom bill last year. Naturally, the Rolling Stone reporter quoted Deal’s use of the language of “discrimination” to explain why he vetoed the bill.
Many Christians have embraced same-sex marriage, using rather flimsy arguments to deconstruct the Bible’s clear condemnation of homosexual activity (in both Old and New Testaments). That fact does not make the “punish the wicked” comment any less anti-Christian, in its cultural context.
As the Christian Post’s Napp Nazworth pointed out, “Kroll can legitimately claim, of course, that the targets aren’t Christians but LGBT opponents. Yet, the targets have been Christians. I don’t know why conservative Muslims, for instance, haven’t been targeted; but so far, the targeting appears to be directed at Christians.” Nazworth rightly added, “LGBT activists have actually punished conservative Christians in severe ways.”
The LGBT efforts against religious freedom, freedom of association, and freedom of speech naturally need not be restricted to conservative Christians. Atheist, Muslim, and even agnostic bakers who also refuse to bake cakes for same-sex weddings would also lack the freedom to do so, if LGBT activism succeeds.
Andy Kroll is right to say his original article never mentioned Christians specifically, and he is also right that Tim Gill’s LGBT activism would impact everyone, not just Christians. But in recent years, Christians have specifically been targeted on these issues.
The Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller is perhaps best known for his quote about the concentration camps under Nazi rule, in which he warned, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist.” When they came for him, there was no one to speak for him.
Conservative Christians may not be a sympathetic bunch, but if their rights to free speech, free association, and religious freedom are put in jeopardy by LGBT activism, liberals, atheists, and Muslims will also lose these rights.
When LGBT activists target basic First Amendment freedoms under the banner of “nondiscrimination,” it is important for conservatives and Christians to point out the hypocrisy and explain that this is code language for targeting conservative Christians now, and possibly any other dissidents later.