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Jewish World Review /Oct. 20, 1998 /1 Mar-Cheshvan 5759

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

Using Matthew Shepard's murder

HEADS UP, ALL OF YOU conservatives who thought the Clinton scandal marked the end of liberal media bias. Think again.

In the wake of the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, liberal activists and interviewers on the morning news shows teamed up to lay blame for the crime on the "Christian right." That this tactic is familiar does not make it any less outrageous or offensive.

The facts are these: A college student was abducted, tortured and left for dead (his broken body was tied to a fence for 18 hours) in Wyoming. He died several days later. Police say the motive for the crime was robbery. But there was also evidence that the two thugs who committed this act were able to abduct Shepard by at first posing as gay men.

Yeah, right!
Gay-rights groups and their sympathizers in the broadcast media seized upon this heinous murder as an opportunity to smear conservative Christians for creating a "climate of hate."

If this sounds familiar, it should. Following the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City by a Waco-obsessed fiend, the White House blamed talk radio and, with a wink and a nod, all conservatives, for creating a climate of anti-government extremism.

A month or two before Matthew Shepard's murder, some conservative Christian groups had circulated print and television ads suggesting that it is possible to leave gay orientation behind and even marry and have children. According to the Family Research Council, one of the groups that sponsored the ads, thousands of men and women have successfully altered their sexual orientation.

Now, it is understandable that gay activists, who want homosexuality to stand on completely equal footing with heterosexuality and who are keen to be accepted and approved just the way they are, find these ads annoying. "Why should we want to change?" they ask. There is no greater morality or greater happiness to be had by converting to heterosexuality.

But it is quite simply slanderous to argue, as Elizabeth Birch, president of the Human Rights Campaign, did last week, that those ads are "pumping lies into every community in this country. They are dangerous and misguided. The results of this campaign are terrifying." Or to suggest, as Katie Couric seemed to on the "Today Show" that ads like these "prompt people to say, 'If I meet someone who's homosexual, I'm going to take action and try to convince them or try to harm them.'"

This is a most cynical use of a tragedy. First, on the matter of "creating a climate of hatred," none of those who so glibly suggest that Christian groups incited Matthew Shepard's murderers has produced one iota of evidence that those two creeps ever saw or read the advertisements in question. Further, even if they had seen them, it would be hard to imagine how something as innocuous as suggesting that counseling may help homosexuals become straight could even in the most twisted mind translate into "Go kill gays."

In fact, it is far from clear that anti-homosexual animus played any part in Shepard's murder. It may be that the two killers simply settled on the easiest way to lure an unsuspecting college student into a deserted area.

There is no question that anti-homosexual bias exists and that it has contributed to violence against gays. But that bias has been declining sharply over the past several years, particularly in the wake of the AIDS epidemic, which has generated sympathy for homosexuals. So if anyone is creating the climate these days, it would seem to be the gay activists, not the Christian right.

Homosexuals are perfectly within their rights, of course, to lobby for equal moral, political and legal standing in this society. But it is slimy and disreputable to attempt to tar one's opponents with the "hate" brush. There may be some Christians who hate gays -- though that was by no means the message of the ads sponsored by Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council -- and such hatred cannot be read into mere opposition to the gay-rights agenda. Moreover, baseless hatred is forbidden to Christians and Jews.

On the other hand, there are certainly a good many gay activists who hate the Christian right --- and nothing in their credo seems to forbid indulging that hatred luxuriously.


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©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.